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

STATEMENT: Texas Officials Continue Attacks on Abortion Care During Interim

Texas Officials Continue Attacks on Abortion Care During Interim

For Release: 2-21-2018

Contact: Sharmeen Aly, [email protected]

Today, the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs met for an interim hearing to discuss granting the Attorney General power to prosecute abortion clinics and further target abortion care. Alexa Garcia-Ditta, communications director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement —

“Today, Texas officials continued their relentless attack on abortion care. Wednesday’s hearing was another attempt by Texas to push a national agenda intended to end abortion care entirely and put essential healthcare out of reach for people across the state. There is no evidence that local district attorneys are refusing to prosecute violations of state law.

Ken Paxton’s proposal would give anti-abortion politicians like him more power, while further stigmatizing health care. Further, the Office of the Attorney General has no business usurping the power of locally elected district attorneys to politicize qualified clinics providing safe and dignified care to their communities.

Today’s hearing continued the state’s push for a national agenda that targets abortion providers and stigmatizes abortion care. Regulating abortion clinics differently than any other medical clinic only prevents people from accessing the health care they need. Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the country and is an essential component of health care—it’s time Texas officials treated it as such.”


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

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

STATEMENT: Gov. Abbott Announces More Devastating Attacks on Abortion Access for Special Session

For Release: 6-6-2017

Contact: Sharmeen Aly, [email protected]

Austin, TX — Today, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a special session to begin July 18 and laid out several pieces of anti-abortion legislation as his priorities, including a ban on private insurance coverage for abortion, burdensome reporting requirements for abortion providers and further regulations on how governments can contract with organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Gov. Abbott also signed into law SB 8, a cruel and shameful anti-abortion bill that severely restricts access to health care and effectively bans second trimester abortions.

Heather Busby, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, released the following statement upon the announcement —

“It is disgusting and shameful that Gov. Abbott is wasting taxpayer dollars to force through even more regulations on our reproductive freedoms, especially after signing such a harmful bill in SB 8. And it is even more despicable that he is using the special session to systematically deny our human rights and civil liberties, wrenching away local control, attacking transgender people, forcing through school vouchers, and taking away our ability to unionize.

Restricting access to vital health care and targeting medical providers is cruel, hateful and dangerous. Gov. Abbott’s priorities for the special session jeopardize Texans’ health and safety and disproportionately impact low-income Texans, people of color and their families, and young people.

There is nothing ‘pro-life’ about denying health care to those who need it. Our reproductive rights are not political bargaining chips to be traded away.”