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Christian 'Pregnancy Crisis Centers' Masquerading as Health Clinics Tell Women Abortion Causes Cancer and Infertility -- And You're Helping Pay for Them

Under the dubious free speech protection, CPCs are going to disgusting lengths to scare women out of seeking abortions -- with the help of federal and state funding.

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The findings?

The settings varied widely. One volunteer reported that the CPC was set up in somebody's home. Others were in medical offices buildings and were decorated to look like legitimate health clinics.

Once inside the centers, the volunteers were often bombarded with images of aborted fetuses, shocking videos and religious propaganda, all designed to dissuade women from going through with an abortion.

Much of the material distributed by the CPCs contained false or misleading information about the risks of abortion. According to the report, one CPC brochure stated, “No doubt an unwanted pregnancy can cause intense stress and hardship in a variety of ways.... the information is clear – the physical and psychological consequences of abortion can be far worse.”

NARAL volunteers reported being told that abortion can lead to breast cancer, infertility and mental health problems. Sixty percent of CPCs investigated said that condoms are “ineffective in reducing pregnancy and the transmission of certain STDs.”

The NARAL report isn't the first time CPCs have been accused of spreading inaccurate information. In a 2006 investigation, Rep. Harvey Waxman's (D-CA) office investigated CPCs that received federal funding. Using women who posed as pregnant 17-year-olds, the report found that 20 of the 23 CPCs contacted provided “false or misleading information” about the health effects of abortion.

A Care Net representative would not comment for this article until NARAL's report was made public. After initially agreeing to an interview, NIFLA President Thomas Glessner would not return phone calls after receiving a list of interview questions he requested. Repeated calls to Heartbeat International were not returned.

The problem with CPCs isn't limited to how they operate. As full-service clinics shutter due to lack of funds or threats of violence, making birth control and abortion services less accessible for many of the nation's women, CPCs are expanding their reach.

Care Net, which oversees the largest network of CPCs, launched an urban outreach initiative 2003 targeting African Americans and Latinas – two demographic groups most in need of comprehensive reproductive health services.

Care Net and Heartbeat International together run the dubiously named Option Line, a 24-hour call center whose main goal is to schedule referral appointments to the nearest CPC. The call line receives 16,000 calls per month.

CPC networks have also worked to place ads on MTV, BET and on buses and billboards across the country.

Care Net will soon launch a campus outreach effort to increase its visibility to college-age women. In 2008, the Feminist Majority Foundation found that 48 percent of four-year universities that responded to a questionnaire routinely referred women who might be pregnant to CPCs.

Another troubling issue is how CPCs obtain government funding. Some receive federal funding through abstinence-only education funds.

Some states offer drivers pro-life license plates, with fees collected for the plates going to CPC organizations.

So far, few states offer a similar pro-choice plate with funds going toward comprehensive family planning services. In February, Virginia approved a “Choose Choice” plate. One group, License to Choose, is trying to bring a pro-choice license plate to Florida.

NARAL's goal isn't to shut CPCs down; it's to get them to be more upfront about the type of information or services they offer.

With NARAL'S efforts, some jurisdictions are pushing back against CPCs that use deceptive advertising or provide false or misleading information.

Recently, Montgomery County, MD and Austin, TX passed laws requiring CPCs to disclose that they do not refer visitors for abortions.

The Montgomery County law, which passed in February, requires a center that does not provide abortions or referrals for abortions to post disclaimers stating it “does not have a licensed medical professional on staff.”