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.

One Texan’s Experience at a Crisis Pregnancy Center

When I was 16 I didn’t fully understand sex. I grew up with a mom who taught sex-ed, but in Texas you don’t learn anything useful about sex at school so the nitty gritty details escaped me. I was inexperienced and feared disappointing my mom. Needless to say, I was at a disadvantage.

As a black girl, you’re taught to NEVER “act fast” and subconsciously I had shame about sex after being molested as a young girl. For two months I was sure I was pregnant, sure that my life was over, sure that my mom would be ashamed of me for wasting my potential. Millennial to the core, I immediately got online to look for at-home abortion remedies.I made plans to seek out herbs, started rehearsing lies to tell my mom if I had a bad reaction to anything. Looking back I’m horrified because if anything had happened I may have died.

After finding a place to get a pregnancy test,  I debated whether I was even brave enough to go. Having an answer to this question would determine where I was going next so I made the appointment for an evening during the week after school. The crisis pregnancy center was two blocks away from my school, connected to a church, so I walked over as soon as class let out.

The reception was warm, weirdly. The women working there acted very excited to see me. I walked into the space and didn’t see anyone else, but there was a room in the back with several other women. The lights were low and it felt like a cozy living room. There was a table set up with a bunch of pamphlets about the false ills of abortions, and the second I saw that I thought “Oh F**K THESE ARE WEIRDOS” and got really scared. Not knowing if I was pregnant was one thing, but being attacked by Christian Fundamentalists was scarier. We sat in a room together and discussed how we got there. We went around in a circle talking and one by one went into another room full of medical equipment to get tested. We prayed for quite a long time before receiving the results. This entire time I felt the anxiety in the room heighten. The women around me were picking up on how resistant the women leading the discussion were to any options that didn’t end in “I am keeping this baby”. We were getting antsy and one of the women angrily asked when we were getting the results so they brought us into a different room one by one to get results. The second I got my results (a negative) I got out of there. Some of the women stayed, so I assumed they were actually pregnant.

I didn’t escape without a lot of pamphlets intended to make sure I had “information.” My fear lifted as soon as I knew I wasn’t pregnant, so walking back to the train I mostly worried about how the other women were going to handle it.

Emma Robinson works at The Afiya Center in Dallas. To learn more about deceptive, manipulative crisis pregnancy centers, visit

STATEMENT: Texas Will Revoke Family Planning Money Given to Anti-Abortion Organization

Texas Will Revoke Family Planning Money Given to Anti-Abortion Organization  

For Release: 8-22-2017

Contact: Sharmeen Aly, [email protected]

Austin, TX — Yesterday, it was revealed that Texas will reallocate more than $4 million of the state’s family planning budget from a grant awarded to The Heidi Group, an anti-abortion organization that provides no health care. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas has repeatedly criticized the state’s decision to award The Heidi Group this funding. Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement —

“The Heidi Group’s contract with HHSC demonstrates just how far Texas will go in putting politics over people, especially when it comes to reproductive health. There was nothing in The Heidi Group’s operations or history to indicate that this non-medical organization was even remotely qualified to provide reproductive health care.

Carol Everett has made several statements that demonstrate her lack of understanding of basic public health concepts, such as testifying before the state health agency that HIV and STIs can be transmitted and contracted through our water supply. Yet, the state went to extremes to withhold funds from qualified providers in order to award undeserved millions of taxpayer dollars to an ideological, anti-choice organization with ties to fake providers like crisis pregnancy centers. Tens of thousands of Texans in need of vital health care will pay the price for our state leadership’s unhealthy relationship with anti-abortion zealots like Everett.

Family planning dollars should be going directly to medical providers who have experience providing family planning and preventive care services, not anti-abortion organizations that aim to coerce and manipulate.

There must be an investigation into how and why the health department awarded The Heidi Group such a large contract that they were not qualified to fulfill.”


NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Responds to Troubling HHSC Testimony

During a House Public Health Committee hearing last week, HHSC associate commissioners Lesley French delivered sworn testimony to legislators, asserting that pregnant Texans can easily access free pregnancy tests at crisis pregnancy centers. She went on to laud the failing Healthy Texas Women program, which has been dramatically underperforming since losing Planned Parenthood as a health care provider. See below for our response to French’s testimony:


August 1, 2017

Lesley French

Associate Commissioner for Women’s Health Services Division

Texas Health and Human Services Commission


Dear Ms. French,

My name is Emily Martin, and I am the program director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. Our organization’s mission is to use education, training, organizing and public policy to support and protect all Texans’ freedom to make personal reproductive health decisions and to guarantee access to the full range of healthcare options, including timely and affordable access to abortion. As a public health professional and advocate for true reproductive justice, I would be remiss if I did not point out some glaring concerns with your sworn testimony on several maternal mortality bills at last week’s House Public Health Committee hearing.

You and others asserted at the hearing that our health care system requires pregnant Texans  wanting to access Medicaid to get a pregnancy test certified by a provider. However, this information is, in fact, incorrect. Federal regulation states that Texas may take a woman’s statement as verification of her pregnancy and that confirmation from a physician is unnecessary. Not only did you not know the requirements of the program, you utilized this misinformation to suggest that pregnant Texans “visit one of the 115 crisis pregnancy centers across the state” for pregnancy testing, which is wildly misleading and dishonest. If you knew anything about these centers, then you would know the services offered at them might be free but come with another price tag—inaccurate and outright fake medicine. We at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas have spent many years investigating these state-funded crisis pregnancy centers and I am personally appalled at their manipulative tactics. They often do not have regular medical staff but rely on volunteers who administer pregnancy tests and sonograms. Crisis pregnancy centers are so focused on keeping Texans from accessing abortion that they employ lies and delay tactics and often keep those wanting to continue their pregnancy from accessing prenatal care, which is crucial throughout pregnancy. For example, one center we visited advised a young woman that if she did not see a doctor before she was 12 weeks pregnant, she could continue to get free services at the CPC. Comments like yours legitimize these fake medical clinics and mislead Texans who are seeking actual health care services. Texans deserve the truth, especially from state health agency officials like yourself.

You then went on to advertise that the Healthy Texas Women program has a plethora of providers around the state that could offer certified pregnancy tests, including walk-in appointments. We made calls to providers listed on your website in fall 2016 and found that 58 out of the 220 called were not actually participating in Healthy Texas Women and 32 out of those 220 were not OB/GYNs or family planning specialists, but were instead radiologists, dental care specialists or anesthesia consultants. Even more egregious, another 16 of those were disconnected numbers, personal numbers or not health care providers at all, including one number that led to a feed store. Further, Healthy Texas Women is still dramatically underperforming since losing Planned Parenthood as a participating provider.

If you and your agency were truly invested in reducing Texas’ alarming maternal mortality rate, you would work with lawmakers to expand Medicaid and ensure that all Texans, no matter their zip code, had access to the full range of reproductive care, including family planning, abortion, prenatal and postpartum care. At the very least, you should be pushing the Legislature to expand pregnancy Medicaid to at least a year postpartum. You would insist that every qualified medical provider, including Planned Parenthood, participate in our state’s health care programs and that our tax dollars are funding real medicine, not unlicensed, religious-based crisis pregnancy centers.



Emily Martin, M.P.H.

Program Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas


Cc: House Public Health Committee

Chair Four Price

Vice Chair J.D. Sheffield

Rep. Diana Arévalo

Rep. Cindy Burkett

Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Nicole Collier

Rep. Philip Cortez

Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra

Rep. Stephanie Klick

Rep. Tom Oliverson

Rep. Bill Zedler