Pregnant? Scared? Seeking an abortion? A lot of women are. Finding out you're pregnant is a life-altering event even when it's planned and welcomed. An overwhelming number of pregnancies, however, are not planned, and there are nearly 750,000 teen pregnancies in America every year. Luckily, in the United States, the right to access abortion services is protected by Roe V. Wade and the 14th Amendment.
However, that doesn't mean actually getting an abortion is always easy. Far from it. There are a lot of sneaky ways anti-abortion advocates try to prevent women from exercising that constitutionally protected right.
You've probably seen billboards or ads online that say things like "Pregnant? Scared? We can help." They're specifically designed to attract women who are pregnant, scared, and seeking abortions. And unfortunately, they often work.
Unfortunately because, chances are, the ad belongs to what's called a "crisis pregnancy center."
Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are not at all what they seem, as this recent video from Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency explains.
"Don't visit a crisis pregnancy center. It's a trap," Sarkeesian warns.
These centers, she explains, are run by anti-abortion organizations and have a single goal: to convince and trick women into carrying their pregnancies to term by any means necessary and even sometimes against their will. Vulnerable women seeking to terminate their pregnancies come in with promises of free guidance, medical care, and support but instead face guilting and delaying tactics designed to steer them away from abortions.
CPCs also peddle false information about birth control and sex itself, often without a qualified medical professional anywhere to be found. A woman coming to a CPC looking for medical care or advice with the intention of keeping her pregnancy would likely find little help from the staff there. According to NARAL, some CPCs do offer some limited medical services, such as ultrasounds, though they are "generally not used as a diagnostic tool, but as another means of shame and coercion."
Another shocking fact: There are over 1,500 such centers across the country, meaning they far outnumber actual abortion clinics.
That's exactly the way anti-abortion organizations want it.
"The agenda? Prevent people from exercising their legal and moral right to determine whether a pregnancy is right for them," Sarkeesian says.
Even if you do oppose abortion on moral or religious grounds, lying, manipulating, and tricking people with fake medical advice is reckless, amoral, and downright dangerous.
As Sarkeesian points out, we'd never let this kind of unregulated practice fly in any other circumstance. Yet CPCs remain totally legal and poorly supervised.
"There's a very good reason we don't allow just any yahoo off the street to throw up crisis medical centers for heart disease, diabetes, or cancer," she says. "Because it would be ethically and medically disastrous. And totally bonkers."
The ads for CPCs do get one thing right: There are a lot of very frightened women out there facing surprising and unwanted pregnancies. What they need is sound medical advice and unbiased information to help them make the decision that is right for them — whether that means keeping the pregnancy or terminating it.
If you want to do more than just steer clear of shady CPCs, you can throw your support behind organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, both of which work tirelessly to protect women's reproductive rights.