September 15, 2010 — Reports of deceptive practices at antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers have prompted a spate of efforts at the local and national levels to require more disclosure about the services offered at the facilities, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. CPCs, which largely are funded by religious organizations, often attract women by advertising free pregnancy tests, according to Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation. "Instead, they have women come in and spend hours watching videos and listening to religious sermons" that attempt to convince them to carry their pregnancies to term, she said.
In April, Austin, Texas, became the second city in the U.S. to adopt an ordinance requiring CPCs to post signs stating that they do not offer abortion or contraceptive services. Heidi Gerbracht, policy director for Austin City Council member Bill Spelman, said the ordinance is meant to ensure "truth in advertising." Baltimore passed a similar ordinance last year. The Archdiocese of Baltimore has challenged the law in court. In addition, the Montgomery County Council in Maryland adopted a measure requiring centers that do not have at least one licensed medical professional to post signs stating what services the facilities offer. At the federal level, Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (N.J.) introduced legislation (HR 5652) in July that would require the Federal Trade Commission to establish advertising rules for CPCs.
In addition to deceptive advertising, some centers provide factually inaccurate information to patients and disregard patient confidentiality. The article featured the story of a pregnant woman who said that a counselor at a CPC in Texas "told her that 50% of women who have an abortion get breast cancer and 30% die within a year of the procedure." When the woman didn't return for an ultrasound, staffers from the CPC called her house and told the mother of the woman's boyfriend that she was considering an abortion. Saporta said that if the center were a "legitimate clinic," the breach would have constituted a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. However, CPCs usually are not regulated and not subject to federal privacy laws.
Organizations that run CPCs question the need for disclosure signs. Joe Young, vice president of operations for Heartbeat International, a network of ministries with more than 1,000 CPCs, said the centers are truthful about the services they provide. He also said he supports truth in advertising as long as abortion clinics must abide by the same rules. Kristin Hansen, spokesperson for CPC network Care Net, said a recent exit survey of CPC clients found that 97% gave the centers a high approval rating (Jarvis, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9/14).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership