In New York, if you are a woman seeking an abortion, you can go to the nearest clinic, but be careful not to enter the other “clinic” in the same building across the street. or at the end of the block. Instead of finding an abortion clinic, you might accidentally find yourself in a crisis pregnancy center.
There you can be greeted by scrub staff, who offer you abortion “consultations”. They can even use ultrasound and ultrasound machines, although the volunteers are not medical professionals. The locations of many emergency pregnancy centers are not accidental. They are deliberate, trying to confuse patients by setting up in front of real medical facilities.
There is a reproductive justice crisis lurking in plain sight all around us, and it’s time we spoke about it: crisis pregnancy centers.
Pregnancy Crisis Centers (CPCs) are anti-abortion centers that try to deter patients from aborting through manipulative tactics. There is more of 4,000 fake clinics throughout the country, in red, blue and purple states– outnumbering abortion providers 4 to 1. They mistakenly present themselves as abortion clinics, often with vague names like “MyChoice”, but when patients come to CPCs to request an abortion, they are told. They are shamed and given false medical information to try and stop them from getting an abortion.
The shameless disguise of CPCs as medical facilities has real consequences: Patients have faced life-threatening medical emergencies and have lost pregnancies because fake clinics failed to provide them with accurate medical information. They promise free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds to target marginalized women, including teens, students, women of color, low-income women, and non-English speaking women, who are less likely to have access to affordable health care. The sick stories that have been manipulated, endangered and deceived by bogus clinics are brutal. Vulnerable women, faced with an unplanned pregnancy, are likely to have trust someone in a lab coat – not knowing the grim agendas behind that coat.
The Jewish principle of k’vod habriot [individual dignity] teaches us that we are given free will to consider all of our options and decide what is good for us, without coercion. When crisis pregnancy centers deny their patients this right, they are doing something deeply ungodly. If you loved your patients, wouldn’t you trust them to make their own decisions? Wouldn’t you respect them enough not to lie to them?
Pregnancy crisis center groups like NIFLA are claiming “religious freedom” – in the process of imposing their faith on other religions or on non-religious people. CPCs are frequently affiliated with Christian groups and treat their patients with prejudices based on their religion. When Dartricia Rollins went to a CPC for an ultrasound, they had shamed him for having sex before marriage and lectured her partner for not going to church. They gave her an incorrect gestational age, and when she was finally referred to a real clinic, it was too late to treat her for an incompetent cervix. She lost a much desired pregnancy because a CPC put her religious agenda above her health care.
Unfortunately, in the recent NIFLA v. Becerra verdict, the Supreme Court allowed CPC to lie. They struck down a law requiring bogus clinics to disclose that they are not, in fact, medical facilities, and a similar law in New York could be next.
By lying to patients and denying them options, emergency pregnancy centers contradict my Jewish values - especially of k’vod habriot. True religious freedom means honoring the right of women to make an informed choice.
More than ever I’m proud to fight with ProTruth, a coalition led by the New York branch of the National Council of Jewish Women. ProTruth maps real and fake clinics in New York City and provides resources for honest and compassionate pregnancy care.
ProTruth maps real and fake clinics in New York City, providing resources for “honest and compassionate pregnancy care”.
Together, we must raise awareness of crisis pregnancy centers and hold them accountable for their dangerous tactics. Every patient has the right to unbiased and accurate information about all of her pregnancy options, without judgment or political agenda. Anti-choice groups often mistakenly claim that all people of faith are opposed to access to abortion, but here at NCJW New York, we advocate for access to abortion because we are Jewish women. We know we are our sisters’ keepers, and if the courts don’t protect us, we will protect each other.
Nina Henry is an advocacy intern with the New York branch of the National Council of Jewish Women. Follow her on Twitter @nina_ecarg