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NARAL report claims some Massachusetts CPCs mislead

In an ongoing project to shine more light on pregnancy centers that counsel women out of having abortions -– commonly known as “crisis pregnancy centers,” or CPCs –- NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Massachusetts affiliate has uncovered evidence that CPCs throughout the Bay State have, in some cases, provided women with faulty information to encourage them to carry their pregnancies to term.

NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and its political arm NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts Foundation began investigating Massachusetts CPCs last summer after the state began issuing “Choose Life” license plates, thus creating a new revenue source for CPCs.

According to the resulting report (PDF), undercover, in-person visits were made to 24 of the 30 CPCs operating in Massachusetts; staff researched the centers’ advertising and counseling procedures, as well as where they were getting most of their money. Among the CPCs visited, seven of them were affiliated with two of the country’s largest CPC networks -– Birthright International and Care Net; five belong to the state-wide network Pregnancy Care Center; and four are affiliated with A Woman’s Concern Pregnancy Resource Clinic, the largest CPC network in Massachusetts, which has since 2002 received millions in federal funds to produce an abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education program called “Healthy Futures” (PDF).

What the report aims to prove is that the CPCs’ impact is to “corrupt a pregnant woman’s decision-making process and delay her access to pregnancy-related care, whether she ultimately chooses abortion, adoption, or parenthood.” Much like the 2006 congressional investigation of federally funded pregnancy resource centers (PDF) commissioned by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the Massachusetts report reveals volunteer staff at CPCs often gave women misleading or inaccurate information about pregnancy and abortion. A bulk of NARAL’s findings also deals with how these CPCs are funded and the political ties among their donors.

A snapshot of NARAL’s findings:

  • CPCs outnumber women’s health care providers three to one: Western Massachusetts has at least six CPCs but one clinic that provides abortion services; Central Massachusetts has eight CPCs, one abortion clinic; Northeast and Metro Boston has five CPCs, three abortion clinics. ]
  • NARAL’s undercover investigators reported that several of the CPCs used tactics to try to delay their decision regarding what to do with their unwanted pregnancies. Examples of such tactics include delaying and rescheduling appointments.
  • More than one in four of the CPCs investigated, or 27 percent, told NARAL investigators pretending to be between six and 10 weeks pregnant that 50 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Some investigators reported being told variations of “just because you are pregnant, doesn’t mean you’ll stay pregnant.” (According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), among women who know they are pregnant, the miscarriage rate is about 15 percent to 20 percent, but the miscarriage rate drops after a baby’s heart beat is detected. NIH also estimates that “up to half of all fertilized eggs die and are lost – aborted — spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant.”)
  • About 46 percent of the CPC websites link abortion with a risk of future infertility. Nearly one in three of the CPC’s websites stated that women are more likely to have a premature delivery in a future pregnancy if they have had an abortion. One in five CPCs investigated the commonly unaccepted idea that abortion is a direct cause of breast cancer.
  • Investigators also reported hearing misleading, inaccurate or unfounded information about the ineffectiveness of contraception.
  • Two out of three CPCs visited had a “religious influence,” reported investigators.
  • Some of the CPCs investigated have been accused of false advertising about what services they offer. For example, Daybreak Pregnancy Resource Center in Boston have advertised for “abortion services” in online advertising, demonstrated in the report with a screen shot.
  • Some of the advice given to NARAL investigators was considered “suspect.” One investigator was told, “You don’t need money to raise a child, just time and love.” Another, who told the CPC that she had been drinking heavily throughout her pregnancy, was told “new studies prove alcohol is not too harmful to a fetus.”

According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, a “Choose Life” plate initially costs $40; $28 goes to Choose Life (there are additional costs to swap out an existing plate). The Registry of Motor Vehicles distributed approximately 2,000 plates between June 2010 and April 2011, raising approximately $80,000, according to Massachusetts Choose Life.

NARAL also points out that Natick, Mass.-based private charity Gerard Health Foundation privately funded A Woman’s Concern before the organization began receiving federal money. Gerard Health has also funded organizations that head up anti-abortion initiatives such as Focus on the Family and Live Action.

The NARAL Massachusetts report:

Naral Pcm Cpc Report 2011

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