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The Anti-Choice Plan to Lure Women to Christian Pregnancy Centers

Many crisis pregnancy centers are converting into limited-service medical clinics. With Planned Parenthood under attack, will they be more of a draw for women?

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A woman walking into a regular CPC can't get much beyond "counseling" from anti-abortion volunteers. (Legally, the best they can do is give her a stick to pee on.) But in a crisis pregnancy medical clinic she can talk to a nurse and technically even a physician (the clinics have to be overseen by a licensed doctor but they're not always on site). All of this is free. On its website, NIFLA, the main group behind the push to convert CPCs into medical clinics, boasts that conversion leads to "major increases in the numbers of clients they are seeing on a monthly basis, as well as a dramatic increase in the number of clients choosing life."

Unsurprsingly, there's a lot of right-wing muscle behind the push to make CPCs more attractive to women who may be considering abortion. ("If you are pregnant, or might be pregnant, you might be feeling overwhelmed" an ad suggests over a picture of a wide-eyed young woman on the CareNet website. "You are not alone" consoles the tagline.)

In 1998, NIFLA established the Life Choice Project (TLC), which equips CPCs with legal tools and information to convert to medical clinics. They have a team of law consultants to help shepperd CPCs through the complex legal process, and an advisory board of medical professionals to oversee member clinics and make sure they comply with standard medical practices.

This is serious business. The NIFLA training manual preemptively scolds, "Converting to medical clinic status means not only doing the right things, but doing things right. There simply are no short cuts. You must build your medical clinic on sound business and medical practices or risk paying the price." The program provides ongoing legal advice, so even after a member center has converted, NIFLA consultants are on call to help them navigate state and federal regulations.

They also help with their ultrasound needs by referring them to a manufacturer that offers a discount price. In 2009 the group spent $100,000 helping CPCs convert.

The center also trains nurses and doctors on the legal issues surrounding the use of limited ultrasound in medical clinics. According to their site, 2,000 nurses have gone through the program. Overall the group spent $627,863.46 in 2009 helping out their member CPCs, including nurse and doctor trainings, the conversion process and ongoing legal advice pre and post-transition.

Focus on the Family is also involved. In 2004 the anti-gay, anti-choice religious-right group starting handing out "TLC grants" that fully fund the conversion of CPCs that make it through their application process, which FoF uses to determine two things: if a CPC has its act together (with a functioning board, CEOs and directors) to handle the legal hurdles of the transition, and perhaps more importantly, whether the center is worth investing in.

The latter consideration rides on which CPCs are the most likely to influence the most women to have babies. According to the assessment form, a center is more likely to get a grant if it operates in a large metro area, in a state with public funding for abortion beyond rape, incest or if the life of the mother is at risk. It also helps if the state gets an A or B grade for abortion access from NARAL. Another question asks if four or more public abortion providers serve its city.

Also advantageous is the presence of a large number of young women likely to find themselves pregnant, single and confused about it: "City has a four-year university with a student body of 15,000 or more (age 18- 26, excluding online students), that’s a target audience your organization will serve," according to the self-assessment form.

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