CPCs are "fake" abortion clinics run by extreme anti-abortion groups that imitate actual abortion clinics, despite the fact that they do not provide abortion or contraceptive services and the majority are not medical clinics at all. CPCs typically use deceptive advertising tactics to mask their true anti-abortion agenda and to bring women into their facilities. Using misinformation, shame and scare tactics, these centers seek to dissuade women who face unintended pregnancies from choosing abortion.
CPCs originated as a grass-roots anti-abortion response to the legalization of abortion following Roe v. Wade. With recent dramatic increases in government funding, these centers are now highly organized and outnumber actual abortion clinics. Currently, there are an estimated 2,300 to 3,500 CPCs operating in the US, while there are only 1,800 abortion clinics.1 Though several CPCs have been individually targeted for their deceptive practices, little concrete legal or legislative action has been taken against them and they are largely unregulated at both the federal and state level.
CPCs are notorious for using deceptive tactics in order to give the false impression of being actual abortion providers. Most CPCs are affiliated with umbrella organizations or networks, such as Birthright, Care Net and Heartbeat International and may bear their name (click here to read Legal Momentum's research on CPC networks). Other CPCs use familiar or innocuous sounding names that disguise their true antiabortion motivations such as "AAA Women's Clinic" or "Pregnancy Decision Health Center." Many CPCs are often strategically located in close proximity to actual abortion providers or high schools and college campuses. For example, "PP, Inc.," a Massachusetts CPC, is located on the same floor as an actual Planned Parenthood.2
CPCs generally advertise under "Abortion Alternatives" in the telephone book and offer free pregnancy testing, counseling and/or ultrasounds. A CPC "client" facing an unplanned pregnancy is likely to be shown frightening videos about abortion or pictures of aborted fetuses and told about the risks of "post-abortion syndrome" (a condition not recognized by either the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association).3 A recent Congressional inquiry found that 20 out of the 23 CPCs surveyed provided false or misleading information about the health risks of abortion, including inaccurate claims that abortion causes breast cancer, infertility and depression.4
CPCs do not provide abortion services or access to contraceptives. The vast majority of CPCs are not actual medical clinics and are therefore not required to meet the legal and ethical standards for medical facilities (including to provide complete and accurate medical information) or to respect patient confidentiality.
Legal Momentum works hard to support and defend the reproductive rights CPCs seek to eradicate. CPCs mislead and deceive women to further an anti-abortion agenda. In the process, they put women's health at risk and undermine their reproductive autonomy. CPCs are increasingly receiving federal and state funding for these activities - with dangerous consequences for women's health and wellbeing. In Texas, a single, inexperienced CPC recently received $5 million in state family planning funding to provide "abortion alternatives." In previous years, this money had been granted to actual reproductive healthcare providers. The Texas Department of State Health Services now estimates that nearly 17,000 women could lose access to preventative family planning and reproductive health care services - including pap smears and breast cancer screening - as a result of this earmark.5 CPCs also receive money through tax credits and revenue generated by "Choose Life" license plates in several states.
However, the largest source of government funding for CPCs is federal abstinence-only program grants. This funding has brought inexperienced CPC employees and volunteers into schools to teach abstinence-only programs, replacing trained sexual health educators who had provided comprehensive sexual education. Legal Momentum has analyzed several of the curricula produced by CPC-linked abstinence-only programs and has found that many of these curricula are gender-biased, contain scientific and factual errors, and are infused with an anti-abortion rhetoric.
Legal Momentum has extensively researched the funding streams devoted to CPCs and their deceptive, anti-abortion practices. We will continue to monitor and expose their activities and their misleading and harmful practices.
1. John Leland, Some Abortion Foes Forgo Politics for Quiet Talk, NY Times, Jan. 16, 2006; Note that the Washington Post gave a slightly different but older estimate of 3,000 CPCs and 2,000-2,500 "family planning clinics and abortion providers" (see Alan Cooperman, Abortion Battle: Prenatal Care or Pressure Tactics? Washington Post, Feb. 21, 2002) while a Guttmacher Institute report from the same year estimated that there were 2,500 to 4,000 CPCs in the US (Vitoria Lin and Cynthia Dailard, Crisis Pregnancy Centers Seek to Increase Political Clout, Secure Government Subsidy, 5(2) Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, (2002), available at http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/05/2/gr050204.html).
2. Tax Funded Anti-Abortion Group Accused of Using Deceptive Tactics, NY Sun, June 16, 2006.
3. John Leland, Some Abortion Foes Forgo Politics for Quiet Talk, NY Times, Jan. 16, 2006.
4. False and Misleading Health Information Provided by Federally Funded Pregnancy Resource Centers Prepared for Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Comm. on Government Reform (Minority Staff), U.S. House of Representatives (2006), available at http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/Documents/20060717101140-30092.pdf.
5. Jordan Smith, The New Family Planning, Austin Chronicle, Jan. 27, 2006.