In Austin, Crisis Pregnancy Centers are still suing over their “right to lie”

“When I called the crisis pregnancy center to make an appointment, they were immediately pushy about their ultrasound services. They didn’t even know how far along I was in my pregnancy or if I was truly pregnant. When I went in to the CPC for my appointment, I was taken to the ultrasound room after a volunteer counselor and missionary discussed my pregnancy options with me and discouraged me from seeking an abortion. They never gave me a pregnancy test. The missionary performed the ultrasound. At first she told me she could not see anything, but after several minutes she told me she was pretty sure she could see my ‘baby’ even though in reality, I wasn’t pregnant.”

In 2010, the Austin City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring crisis pregnancy centers to post a sign stating they do not offer abortion services or contraceptives. The measure was intended to protect consumers who unwittingly enter the centers seeking legitimate medical care, but instead are given sermons and scare tactics.

Of course, the centers promptly sued, claiming the ordinance “unconstitutionally seeks to suppress unpopular ideas and information relating to pregnancy, and to manipulate the public debate by attempting to dissuade women from hearing pregnancy information from a religious perspective.”

Those “unpopular ideas” are medically and scientifically incorrect statements about miscarriage, abortion and contraceptives, such as widely debunked claims that abortion leads to breast cancer or that condoms are ineffective. And if pregnant people want pregnancy information from a religious perspective, they should be given the option to seek it from the religious provider of their choice, not be duped into it.

A CPC in Austin (Jana Birchum, Austin Chronicle).

A CPC in Austin (Jana Birchum, Austin Chronicle).

The Austin city council then passed a revised ordinance that took out the language about abortion and birth control and replaced it with the requirement that the sign simply state whether the center provides medical services, if those services are provided under direction and supervision of a licensed health care provider, and whether the center is licensed by a state or federal regulatory agency. Why wouldn’t these centers be willing to comply with that?

But they weren’t, primarily because their business is built on deceiving pregnant people into coming into the centers without knowing their true purpose. Many crisis pregnancy centers are located near clinics and often have misleading names, intended to give the impression that they are legitimate health care centers.

Crisis pregnancy centers have been proliferating in Texas while the number of abortion clinics dwindle. Pregnant people often find the number to a crisis pregnancy center, thinking the center offers abortion services, and the centers’ volunteers are trained to try and get the caller to come in under the guise of needing a pregnancy test and an ultrasound, services the centers offer free of charge. What these volunteers don’t explain is they want to get someone in the door so they can talk them out of seeking an abortion.

Here’s an actual chat with a “counselor” on the Option Line, which was the second search result when I googled “Where can I get an abortion in Texas.” From first glance, the site appears neutral – there’s no mention of religion and they give information on abortion and emergency contraception. But on each page, there is a hard push to get visitors to call their hotline or live chat with them.

Me: I need to get the number for a place that does abortions.
Counselor: We dont have that information. but it will be important to go or call if you want to learn more about it.  The center will be able to provide the free test and the ultrasound. an ultrasound will tell you how far along you are… this is important to  know if you are considering abortion
Me: Doesn’t the abortion place do an ultrasound?
Counselor: I don’t know.
Counselor: The center can talk to you more about questions and concerns that you may have about pregnancy.

Unlicensed volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers often perform ultrasounds and as NARAL Pro-Choice Texas’ 2014 investigations into crisis pregnancy centers reveal, the centers routinely interfere with visitors’ access to medical care and put their health at risk. For example, they use stall tactics that delay a pregnant person from getting prenatal care or increase the term at which someone has an abortion.

One crisis pregnancy center volunteer advised a NARAL Pro-Choice Texas investigator against seeing a doctor, and told the investigator that if she saw a doctor about her pregnancy, she would no longer be able to access the center’s ultrasound services for free.

Many crisis pregnancy centers receive state funding through the Alternatives to Abortion Program. This most recent session, the Texas Legislature nearly doubled the funding for the program to $9.1 million per year.

In 2014, Austin’s crisis pregnancy center ordinance was struck down for being too vague. Without an ordinance in place to address these centers’ deception, what can be done? NARAL Pro-Choice Texas is working to expose these centers. If you’d like more information, please contact us and visit our investigative website,

If you are pregnant and need information on where to get an abortion in Texas, visit


Want to create a political witch hunt? Look no further than the Texas Legislature.

On Wednesday my staff and I attended the Texas Senate Health and Human Services hearing meant to investigate the practices of Planned Parenthood regarding fetal tissue donation. This hearing was clearly nothing more than an opportunity for anti-choice politicians and special interest groups to have a soapbox to attack abortion access.

The true intent of the hearing was evident from the moment the witness list was released, which included the directors of four separate anti-choice lobbying organizations. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas was not invited to testify. And given the timing of this hearing – conducted before any actual investigation was done – it’s clear this was never meant to be a fair or honest inquiry.

Let’s be clear: this is a witch hunt. The group behind these videos is widely discredited and has close ties to domestic terrorists and extremist groups. The videos are misleading and heavily edited. Their intent is to whip anti-choice forces into a frenzy and incite further attacks – both political and physical – against the brave providers who risk their lives every day to be there for their patients.

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s statements were pure political grandstanding. We know that elected officials like Ken Paxton will continue to put their personal agenda above the law, distorting the facts and manipulating the public in order to achieve their overall goal of making safe, quality abortion care completely inaccessible to those who need it.

Paxton stated in the hearing that he thinks “we treat bodies better in prison than we do in abortion clinics.” However, we have yet to see anything from Paxton’s office denouncing the wrongful arrest and suspicious death of Sandra Bland in a Waller County jail. On Thursday, the House County Affairs committee is holding a hearing to investigate jail standards and the treatment of mental health issues in jails. I don’t expect that Mr. Paxton will testify at that hearing about his office’s plans to investigate jail policies and procedures.

There are much bigger problems in our state that these lawmakers should be addressing. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas denounces this political theater. We support our abortion providers and stand with Planned Parenthood.

We have been fighting for reproductive freedom in Texas since 1978 and we will not back down now. Thank you for supporting our work as we seek a Texas where every person in this state can decide whether, when and how to become a parent and to do so with dignity, support and respect.

#SoProLife: the anti-life priorities of Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton

This week an extremist anti-abortion group released a heavily edited, deceptive undercover video targeting Planned Parenthood. The short version of the video misleads the viewer into thinking the doctor is discussing the sale of fetal body parts, but the longer, nearly three hour version makes it clear that they’re discussing voluntary tissue donation that patients request and extensively consent to. Any money exchanged is only to reimburse the costs of shipping the donations to facilities that perform lifesaving medical research.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton were quick to join the witch hunt as this false scandal hit the news cycle by calling for an investigation. Since they’re both currently embroiled in their own ethical and legal troubles, it’s not surprising how eager they are to turn the attention to one pet cause that is guaranteed to rile up their extreme right-wing base: abortion. Not surprisingly, anti-choice members of the Legislature have wasted no time in responding, setting a Senate Health and Human Services committee meeting for the Planned Parenthood investigation on July 29.

Meanwhile, real scandals that affect the state are happening and Abbott and Paxton haven’t lifted a finger to do anything about them. For example, children born in Texas – United States citizens by birthright – are being routinely denied birth certificates, simply because their mothers don’t have US passports.

Who does this to babies? Denying a baby a birth certificate is tantamount to denying them health care, education, future jobs and, basically, their identity. It’s cruel, racist and unacceptable…except to Abbott, who is apparently just fine with the practice.

How can Abbott tout how “pro-life” he is when he hasn’t done a single thing to right this horrible injustice? It wouldn’t take much for him to direct the Health and Human Services Commission to knock it off with this awful and illegal practice, but he hasn’t bothered to make a statement or even a phone call. His lack of action is apparent as this has been going on for some time and now the mothers have to sue the state for their rights.

Then there’s the suspicious death of Sandra Bland after she was jailed in a county known for racism and hostility toward black residents. Abbott tweeted once about Sandra Bland’s death on July 17, but hasn’t publicly called for a full-scale investigation or denounced the way Ms. Bland was treated. Paxton has also been silent.

These elected officials are #SoProLife that babies born in border counties don’t matter and a black woman’s death doesn’t deserve the same outrage as a manufactured scandal based on lies intended to further restrict access to safe abortion care. Shame on Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton.


State Affairs Committee to discuss teenage access to birth control

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Update 3:45 PM: The House stands adjourned. You can head here for the State Affairs live feed.

Update 12:00 PM: The House State Affairs committee will not hear this bill until the House has adjourned for the day. Due to a current discussion of another bill in the House, HB 468 will likely not have a hearing until mid-to-late afternoon. If you can make it to the Capitol but can’t stay long enough for the hearing, we encourage you to register in support of this bill by finding one of the iPads inside of the Capitol or by registering from a mobile device that is connected to the Capitol WiFi network (learn how to do that here).

On Wednesday, the House State Affairs committee will hear HB 468, Rep. Mary Gonzalez’s bill that will allow teens to access birth control without parental consent.

You can support this bill in three ways:
  1. Contact members of the State Affairs Committee to express your support for HB 468.
  2. Come to the hearing and register for HB 468. The committee meets in the John H. Reagan (JHR) building room 140 at 10:30 a.m. or after the House has adjourned for the day. The JHR building is on the corner of 15th and Congress (map).
  3. Testify at the public hearing on Wednesday, March 18. If you are able to testify, please email [email protected]. Click here for more information about testifying at a committee hearing at the Texas Capitol in Austin.
Below are some talking points to use in drafting your testimony or email/call to the committee members:
  • We trust teen parents to make health care decisions for their own children and we should respect them enough to make their own decisions about birth control.
  • Texas has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and the highest repeat teen birth rate in the nation. To enable young people to prevent unintended pregnancy, Texas must increase access to contraception, including allowing youth who are already mothers to access birth control without parental consent. House Bill 468 is a small but important step toward meeting that goal.

Remember to use #TrustTX and #HB468 when tweeting!