NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts
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Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Misleading Information

"She gave me a pregnancy test, and then as I waited for the results, she had me watch a video. Within minutes, I knew it was propaganda: It said not many people know the truth about abortion—that doctors who provide them graduate at the bottom of their class and that it is linked to breast cancer and depression. I was outraged. I went in trusting these people and felt betrayed and manipulated … It breaks my heart to think of someone going in there already scared. If I had been nervous or ill-informed or did not have a support network, that experience would have been devastating.”–Allyson Kirk, speaking to Glamour Magazine (The Serious Health Decision These Women Are Ready to Talk About: Eight Women Share Their Abortion Stories)

In 2011, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts conducted an undercover investigation of crisis pregnancy centers around the state. Our volunteers found that the main strategy used to deter a woman from considering or seeking an abortion is the spread of medical falsehoods. Those falsehoods include:

The Miscarriage Myth

By far the most troubling tactic used by the crisis pregnancy centers in Massachusetts was the distribution of false information about the rate of miscarriage. A number of crisis pregnancy center counselors told our volunteers, "Most pregnancies are not viable,” and therefore getting an abortion is unnecessary. Counselors attempted to convince our volunteers to schedule an ultrasound days or weeks into the future, and then suggested that planning on a miscarriage is an acceptable way to deal with an unintended pregnancy. (The truth: only 15% of pregnancies result in miscarriage.) The goal of this lie is to delay a woman from making an appointment for an abortion, but it has much broader impacts. This delay in prenatal care, no matter what a woman’s final decision is, could cause adverse health consequences both for herself and for her child.

Mental Health Impacts

More than half (55%) of crisis pregnancy center counselors in Massachusetts claimed that having an abortion causes women severe psychological harm and future mental health problems such as PTSD, depression, "post-abortion regret,” and alcohol abuse or promiscuity. This information was spread in person, over the phone, and through pamphlets such as the one to the right. Although some women do experience sadness, grief, and feelings of loss after an abortion, there is no evidence to support the claim that mental health issues are caused by an abortion or that a woman is more likely to have mental health issues after an abortion than if she chooses to carry the pregnancy to term.

Future Fertility

One third (33%) of crisis pregnancy centers in Massachusetts informed our volunteers that abortion may cause infertility and/or an ectopic pregnancy in the future for "most women.” Some also state a likelihood of premature delivery in future pregnancies if they have an abortion. In fact, according the Mayo Clinic, abortion does not increase the risk of major pregnancy complications during future pregnancies or deliveries.

Breast Cancer

One in five (20%) crisis pregnancy centers in Massachusetts echoes the common anti-choice falsehood that abortion causes an increased risk of breast cancer of anywhere from 20% to 50% (to 100% in one instance). Nearly half (46%) of their websites state that there is a 50% increased risk of developing breast cancer after one abortion. However, the scientific community agrees that abortion does not increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

"She gave me a pregnancy test, and then as I waited for the results, she had me watch a video. Within minutes, I knew it was propaganda: It said not many people know the truth about abortion—that doctors who provide them graduate at the bottom of their class and that it is linked to breast cancer and depression. I was outraged. I went in trusting these people and felt betrayed and manipulated … It breaks my heart to think of someone going in there already scared. If I had been nervous or ill-informed or did not have a support network, that experience would have been devastating.”–Allyson Kirk, speaking to Glamour Magazine (The Serious Health Decision These Women Are Ready to Talk About: Eight Women Share Their Abortion Stories)

Contraception and STIs

Crisis pregnancy center counselors in Massachusetts also provided medically inaccurate information about contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs or STDs). One in five (22%) gave misleading information (such as the pamphlet to the left); one in six websites (15%) made inaccurate statements about emergency contraception; and one-third promoted abstinence-only education, rather than a comprehensive approach to preventing pregnancy and disease.

Abortion Procedures and Risks

During in-person visits, more than half (55%) of crisis pregnancy center staff in Massachusetts discussed how abortions are performed, often using inaccurate, sensationalized, and/or unnecessarily graphic terms. Nearly one in three crisis pregnancy centers in MA discussed medical complications associated with abortions, frequently mischaracterizing the risks. Women were told that the doctors performing their abortion could accidentally puncture their uterus or colon, they would experience hemorrhaging or heavy bleeding, the procedure could cause scarring or lead to infection, and/or that they could die. The truth: abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, with minimal risk of major complications. 

Fetal Development

Nearly two-thirds (61%) of the crisis pregnancy centers our volunteers talked to in Massachusetts discussed fetal development during the visit. Of those, the vast majority (81%) provided misleading information, and nearly half (45%) relied on inaccurate models or depictions to portray the fetus as a miniature, fully-formed baby that grows significantly larger size in each with each successive week.



 

 
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