NARAL report calls North Carolina CPC network to receive state funds a ‘threat to public health’
This week, North Carolina will make it easier for residents to divert money to nonprofit pregnancy centers that counsel women against abortion through license plate purchases, but first the state’s largest abortion-rights organization wants North Carolinians to know more about the entities slated to receive taxpayer funds.
On Monday, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina — the state affiliate of the nation’s leading abortion-rights lobbying group — released a report (PDF) of findings uncovered during a year-long undercover investigation of 66 of the state’s 122 so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs).
Among the findings — collected through 27 undercover in-person visits, 47 website analyses and 40 phone calls – the reports reveals:
- 92 percent of the CPCs studied (61 CPCs) did not have medical professionals on staff, but only 24 percent (16 CPCs) disclosed they are not medical facilities; meanwhile, NARAL’s report notes that many non-medical staff wore lab coats similar to those worn by doctors and nurses.
- 35 percent (23 CPCs) provided ultrasounds on site.
- 12 percent (eight CPCs) conducted sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing.
- 26 percent (17 CPCs) stated as fact that abortion leads to breast cancer (national medical organizations dispute this notion).
- 24 percent (16 CPCs) suggested that abortion leads to miscarriage in later pregnancies.
- 48 percent (32 CPCs) told women that none of the common methods of birth control effectively prevent pregnancy and promoted abstinence over contraception.
The investigation was conducted by the NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Foundation (NPCNCF) between October 2010 and July 2011. In the report, one investigator claimed to have identified herself as Jewish and was allegedly told at five CPCs that she would not go to heaven unless she converted to Christianity.
“Because much of the reproductive health information provided by CPCs is inaccurate, NPCNCF believes these centers are a threat to public health,” the report concludes.
The North Carolina report’s release is timed with a new anti-abortion-rights law, the “Women’s Right to Know Act,” which requires pregnant women seeking abortions to hear a description of their ultrasound images between 72 and four hours before the scheduled abortion, even if they have had a previous ultrasound. On Wednesday, a state-run website will launch a list of all the CPCs that provide free ultrasounds. Attorneys representing state doctors and abortion-rights groups are awaiting a court ruling on a request for a restraining order and permanent injunction to suspend the law before it goes into effect this month.
Another law (PDF) passed this summer, channels funds to CPCs in the state through a newly adopted “Choose Life” license plate program, which originated in Florida in the late 1990s but has since spread across the country. For each “Choose Life” plate sold to a North Carolina car owner for $25, $15 will go to a fund a network of more than 60 centers throughout the state, called the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship (CPCF), which will distribute funds to individual centers based on how many clients served by each CPC and from which county the plates were sold. The majority of the CPCs NARAL investigated — 54 — belong to the CPCF network.
In May, some state House representatives attempted to introduce a “Trust Women, Respect Choice” license plate to the state list of available plates, and other representatives proposed removing political messages from license plates, but both proposals were rejected.
The Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer reports that, at least in the beginning, CPCs are unlikely to earn much money from license plate fund; however, their recognition and influence is likely to increase as more people buy plates and as more women are directed to the CPCs for free mandatory ultrasounds, depending on the outcome of the pending legal challenge. A CPCF state director told the daily that volunteers are trained to treat women with respect but could not “guarantee every word that comes out of a volunteer’s mouth will be what we hope.”
At least 300 people have signed up for the North Carolina plates, reports the News & Observer, which also notes that, according to “a national pro-life group,” about $13.6 million has been raised from “Choose Life” plates in 24 states in the past 10 years.
NARAL has recommended North Carolina require state CPCs advertise their services and abortion views; ensure CPCs communicate clearly to clients if staff are not medically trained; guarantee counsel dispensed to clients is “medically sound and accurate”; and require CPCs establish confidentiality rules in absence of HIPAA regulations, which do not apply to clinics that are not medically licensed.