Inside an Austin Crisis Pregnancy Center

By Laura Gorsky and Breanna Wenke, 2018 NARAL Pro-Choice Texas interns

On March 9 we visited a local Austin crisis pregnancy center. CPCs are fake women’s health centers that intentionally lie about abortion and deceive pregnant people, manipulating them into carrying unwanted pregnancies to term. What’s worse, the Texas Legislature is funding them with our tax dollars to the tune of $9.1 million a year.

The two women who spoke to us never disclosed their role in the clinic, and therefore for someone who is not familiar with these clinics, it is not made clear that these women are not medical personnel. The two women conducting the consultation asked a lot of personal questions about family, faith, and background to try to dissuade me from getting an abortion. They asked about the father, and even when we disclosed that he was not in the picture, and would be disinterested, they encouraged us to tell him about the situation. In addition, even when I stated that I was not Christian, the woman insisted that God had a plan for us, and that I needed to ask why he had put us in this situation.

When discussing our options, the women told stories about the negative emotional “side-effects” of abortion, in an obvious attempt to dissuade us. They talked about how abortion causes emotional distress, however the American Psychological Association’s task force on mental health and abortion found that women who choose abortion are at no greater risk for mental health problems than those who carry an unintended pregnancy to term. They also used fear-mongering and graphic imagery to discourage abortion, implying that the procedure was very painful, and that we would “hear the vacuum sucking the fetus out.” In addition, they showed us pictures of the tools used during surgical abortions to show how painful the procedure would be for both the woman and the “zygote” after it was “scraped out of the uterus.”  However, the most alarming aspect of the consultation was the amount of misinformation we were given about the procedure. We were told that 90 percent of women who have abortions are infertile afterwards, which is not a scientifically proven fact.

Additionally, the women gave false information surrounding the abortion pill, and instead described it as Plan B, stating that the pill acts to stop the sperm from implanting in the woman’s body. As the session concluded, the women encouraged us to make an appointment for an ultrasound, and to take the weekend to really consider all of the options.

Crisis pregnancy centers like the one we visited are putting people’s health at risk. These centers divert pregnant people away from necessary medical care and provide false information with no medical basis. It is especially disturbing that the Texas Legislature continues to give millions of taxpayer dollars to these fake women’s health centers that mislead and lie to pregnant Texans while the state is in the middle of a maternal mortality crisis that disproportionately impacts black women. We need to end the lies that fake women’s health centers are spreading to Texans, and ensure women are able to access timely and trusted reproductive healthcare.

Learn more about crisis pregnancy centers in Texas by clicking here

U.S. Supreme Court Could Prevent Fake Women’s Health Centers in Texas from Lying to Pregnant People

Emily MartinBy Emily Martin, program director

On March 20, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a California law intended to regulate crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, which operate nationwide under the guise of full service women’s health clinics but in fact deceive pregnant people and lie about abortion. 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 people 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 health care providers. This is especially disturbing, as our state grapples with addressing the rising maternal mortality rate.  Since 2005, the Legislature has been funneling millions to unlicensed and unregulated fake women’s health centers that intentionally mislead pregnant people 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 lie and manipulate to keep pregnant Texans from getting an abortion. The 2018-19 two-year budget, which went into effect last year, includes $9.1 million in taxpayer funding annually for 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 unsuspecting pregnant people seeking legitimate medical care to their centers. Once inside, pregnant people 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 health care professionals should not be allowed to deceive patients, lie about medical facts 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 and ultimately defunding them in Texas.

Learn more about CPCs in Texas by clicking here.

STATEMENT: Texans Rise Up to Protect the Promise of Roe v. Wade

AUSTIN, TX — Today marks the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that guaranteed our constitutional right to an abortion. However, as we commemorate this historic anniversary, we also continue to push back against a political landscape that has put abortion even further out of reach for pregnant people who are low-income, undocumented, live in rural areas and are under the age of 18. Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement —

“Despite the fact that the majority of people in this country support the right to safe, legal abortion care, anti-choice politicians in Texas passed seven more laws in 2017 alone that restrict access to abortion and federal officials continue to prevent undocumented teenagers in already vulnerable situations from accessing abortion care. Texans who seek abortion face a mountain of barriers, all of which disproportionately impact people of color. Without true access to abortion, the right to choose is meaningless.

Despite these obstacles, we see hope in the Texans who continue to rise up every day to protect the promise of Roe. From showing up again and again to protest anti-abortion bills at the Capitol to funding people seeking essential health care in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Texans have made it clear that they won’t stay silent against the constant attacks on their reproductive rights.

Our constitutional rights are not up for debate and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, alongside people across the state, will continue to work tirelessly to protect the promise of Roe that we celebrate today.”

STATEMENT: State Health Agency Holds Hearing on Medically Unnecessary Fetal Tissue Burial Rules

For Release: 12-11-2017

Contact: Alexa Garcia-Ditta, [email protected]

On Monday, the Health and Human Services Commission held a hearing for public comment on rules requiring burial or cremation of embryonic and fetal tissue following an abortion or miscarriage. The rules, blocked by a federal court in January, were codified into state law during the 2017 legislative session. Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement —

“After passing further draconian anti-abortion measures during the regular and special legislative sessions, Texas officials still won’t let up in restricting access to health care. It is shameful that Texas has pushed ahead with rules requiring burial or cremation of fetal tissue despite an ongoing legal challenge and a failure to prove in court that these rules serve any benefit to public health or patient safety.

Texans have shown up repeatedly to oppose these medically unnecessary rules but it’s clear that our state officials want to prioritize playing politics with people’s health care rather than listen to their concerns. Our reproductive freedom is not a political football to toss around and score political points with.

Pregnant Texans deserve to make decisions about their own medical care, free from interference by anti-abortion politicians.”

STATEMENT: Federal Court Blocks Dangerous Provision of SB 8 From Going Into Effect

Federal Court Blocks Dangerous Provision of SB 8 From Going Into Effect

For Release: 8-31-2017

Contact: Sharmeen Aly, [email protected]

Austin, TX — Today, a federal court ruled to temporarily block the enactment of a provision of Senate Bill 8 that bans the safest and most common method of abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A coalition of abortion providers represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America brought suit against SB 8 in July. Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement —

“NARAL Pro-Choice Texas is proud to stand with our partners in their fight against attacks on abortion access. SB 8 is part of a coordinated national strategy designed to shame people who get abortions, tie the hands of doctors and ban abortion method by method. This bill criminalizes physicians for exercising their best medical judgment and is a dangerous intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship.

Today’s ruling comes after a hateful special legislative session in which anti-choice lawmakers passed a bill that bans private insurance coverage for abortion. The courts, as well as Texans around the state, see through the Legislature’s thinly-veiled attacks that aim to make abortion inaccessible in Texas.

It is shameful that anti-choice lawmakers have no regard for established law or for people’s rights and insist on wasting precious taxpayer dollars defending laws they know to be unconstitutional. It is long past time for lawmakers to stop playing politics with our health care and stop passing measures that risk patients’ health and safety.”