Wednesday, a City Council committee held a hearing on something that many people are unaware is happening in our city: Anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers are masquerading as legitimate health-care facilities to shame and mislead pregnant women about their reproductive health options.
This hearing came just one day after the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on California's crisis pregnancy centers — to decide whether or not to uphold a state law requiring that patients be notified that the state makes abortion and other reproductive health care available at little or no cost.
Unhealthy confusion (Bebeto Matthews/AP)
By LAURA MCQUADE
NOV 17, 2017 AT 5:00 AM
What is a crisis pregnancy center?
They rarely call themselves by that name. You might look at one of these New York City facilities' websites and see people in scrubs, medical equipment, ultrasound machines, lists of services — things you'd expect to see in a doctor's office. And yet, these facilities are not medical facilities. They do not have medical personnel onsite to supervise services.
The only goal of crisis pregnancy centers is to stop individuals from accessing safe abortion care and birth control.
They use deliberate, extreme tactics to misinform and deceive those who most often come through their doors thinking they are health-care providers — which they are not. These tactics can lead to delays in patients receiving time-sensitive health services.
We are not suggesting these organizations do not have the right to exist. But they shouldn't be allowed to masquerade as legitimate health-care facilities.
That's precisely what they continue to do, despite the fact that by doing so in New York City, they're violating the law.
In 2016, a city statute regarding crisis pregnancy centers went into effect. It mandates that they have specific written and oral disclosures making it clear that they do not have a licensed medical provider on site to provide or supervise all services.
We have yet to find a CPC that complies with this law by posting the correct disclosures on their website and outside their facility.
The law is being ignored, and the city can be doing more to enforce it.
At Planned Parenthood of New York City, we see firsthand the impact that CPCs have on women trying to access reproductive health care. Our patients have reported that they are given inaccurate information, feel harassed and intimidated, and are misled into thinking the CPCs provide birth control and abortion, many times when they were under the impression they were at one of our health centers.
CPCs go to extremes to confuse people seeking abortion or information about their reproductive health options. They purposely locate their facilities near ours — Bridge to Life in Queens sent out multiple newsletters stating they purchased a billboard and subway ad in Long Island City, and were looking for a space next to our Queens center, in order to "reach abortion-minded women before they enter PP."
They post misleading signage to give the impression that they're a legitimate health care provider — and even to give the impression that they are an abortion provider. The CPC across from our Bronx location displays a large banner across several storefront windows stating, "Plan Your Parenthood" and distributes materials that say, "Unplanned pregnancy?" Our patients often accidentally go there thinking it's Planned Parenthood.
And staffers from CPCs frequently stand outside health-care providers that offer abortions and try to convince patients that they shouldn't go in. Outside our Manhattan health center, these "sidewalk counselors" tell patients that they would take them to a "real doctor."
Finally, CPCs are known to give blatantly false medical information. This summer, a Planned Parenthood of New York City patient was told by an EMC Bronx representative that having an abortion would cause her to "bleed out and fall into a coma." The patient said that when she asked if she was at Planned Parenthood, she was told she was.
A doctor with Physicians for Reproductive Health who testified Wednesday had a patient come in thinking she was in her second trimester because of an ultrasound at a CPC — who had also told her it was too late to have a medication abortion or a suction abortion. In reality, she was eight weeks pregnant and it was not too late for these types of abortions.
New Yorkers deserve to know the truth about crisis pregnancy centers — and that means city agencies, elected officials and advocates must come together to hold CPCs accountable and educate the public about these deceptive fake clinics.
We cannot let this deception continue. Not in our city, and not anywhere.
McQuade is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City.