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Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Misleading Information
The Miscarriage MythIn NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts’s 2011 investigation of crisis pregnancy centers, 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:
Mental Health ImpactsBy 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 making plans for 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: early in pregnancy, there is a 25% chance of miscarriage that drops to 8% after the 6th week).[i] 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.
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
Breast CancerOne 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, abortion does not increase the risk of major pregnancy complications during future pregnancies or deliveries.[ii]
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)
Abortion Procedures and Risks
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.
Fetal DevelopmentDuring 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 (30%) 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. In fact, only 0.3% of abortions result in complications that require hospitalization.In one instance, a woman was told she was not pregnant by a crisis pregnancy center counselor, and so continued to live her life as though she wasn't. When she missed her next period, she went to a qualified physician who told her she was 15 weeks pregnant, and was lied to when she visited the crisis pregnancy center. This blatant manipulation of her life, for the sole purpose of preventing an abortion, could have caused severe physical damage, to the woman or the fetus. In this case, the woman was still able to have a legal abortion (although much more invasive than it would have been a month earlier), but the delay of prenatal care would have had extremely negative results to mother and child, had she continued the pregnancy (CPC Watch: Terri's Story).
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 that portray the fetus as a miniature fully formed baby that is simply a larger size in each successive week.Women are often shown plastic models of fetuses which are fully formed babies from seven weeks or even earlier in the pregnancy. According to the Guttmacher Institute study, Crisis Pregnancy Centers Seek To Increase Political Clout, Secure Government Subsidy, "once women are inside the office, counselors subject them to antiabortion propaganda, characterizing abortion as painful and life threatening, with long-lasting physical and psychological consequences." Counselors exaggerate the physical discomfort of an abortion and fabricate risks–such as infertility or breast cancer.