BY EMILY MARTIN
On March 20, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a California law intended to regulate crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs,) which operate nationwide under the guise of full-service women’s health clinics but in fact deceive pregnant women about abortions. The law in question requires that California’s CPCs provide accurate information about state reproductive health programs and that the unlicensed centers publicly notify visitors if no licensed medical professional works on site. The high court’s ruling, expected no later than this summer, could have national implications and could pave the way to prevent Texas’ CPCs from deceiving pregnant women who are seeking medical care.
For more than a decade, the Texas Legislature has allowed these fake women’s health centers to operate with no accountability and little oversight, and continues to tout them as actual healthcare providers. This is especially disturbing, as our state grapples with addressing the rising maternal mortality rate. Since 2005, the Legislature has been funneling millions of dollars to unlicensed and unregulated fake women’s health centers that intentionally mislead pregnant women and function primarily to dissuade them from accessing abortion care, but provide no prenatal care. That year, the Legislature created the Alternatives to Abortion program, siphoning money away from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant and other public health programs, like family planning, and redirecting that money to non-medical, biased organizations that try to keep pregnant Texans from getting abortions. The 2018-19 two-year budget, which went into effect last year, includes $9.1 million in taxpayer funding annually for these fake women’s health centers.
The lack of clarity and truth about crisis pregnancy centers is exactly what allows them to thrive, especially in Texas where many clinics have closed and where many residents aren’t aware of the current abortion restrictions. Through NARAL Pro-Choice Texas’ investigative work into fake women’s health centers, we have evidence that the leaders of the anti-abortion movement are aware of the knowledge gap and take full advantage of it to lure to their centers unsuspecting pregnant women who are seeking legitimate medical care. Once inside, the women are often subjected to coercive and religious counseling, bad science, fake medicine and misinformation about pregnancy, abortion and contraception, creating a delay in accessing real health care. It is especially sickening to delay care as Texas’ maternal mortality rate — the highest in the country and developed world — continues to rise.
These fake women’s health centers that advertise and represent themselves as healthcare professionals should not be allowed to deceive patients or pretend to be real medical facilities. Each of us should have access to licensed medical care when we need it, not ideological coercion. And regardless of the outcome of this case, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas remains committed to exposing their deceptive practices.