Know Before You Go:
Crisis Pregnancy Centers Want You to Stay Pregnant
Updated June 2022
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If you are pregnant and looking for information, you deserve honest information about all your options. You can get that information and the medical care you need at a real clinic, but you will not get that at a crisis pregnancy center. Their mission is to discourage women from getting abortions and access to birth control.
What are crisis pregnancy centers?
Crisis pregnancy centers may look like medical clinics; they may even use the word “clinic” in their names. Many are located close to real abortion clinics. They advertise that they provide pregnancy counseling and information about abortion and pregnancy, and they usually offer free pregnancy testing. Their websites and advertisements often use the same words and pictures as real abortion clinics. People working there may be wearing scrubs and stethoscopes, and there may even be a nurse on staff. Some even provide testing for sexually transmitted infections. But they do not provide abortions; most don’t provide any medical care at all. In fact, they actively discourage people from accessing abortion and birth control.
For more about crisis pregnancy centers, see Designed to Deceive: A Study of the Crisis Pregnancy Center Industry in 9 States.
Also see #ExposeFakeClinics for more resources and to connect with advocacy efforts, like submitting online reviews and spreading the word.
For information specific to Idaho, see Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Idaho.
Why should I avoid crisis pregnancy centers?
They are deceptive and misleading: Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are set up to look like real clinics. Many are located next to real reproductive health clinics, and target low-income and communities of color. They may offer free pregnancy testing, but then refuse to give you the written test results. And they never give referrals to abortion providers.
Health concerns: They rarely offer complete, medically accurate information. They may offer ultrasounds (sonogram), but may not be trained to use the machine properly, and most do not have medical professional on staff to look at the results. This could be very dangerous if they say your ultrasound results are fine when in fact there is something seriously wrong.
Privacy risks: With Roe v. Wade overturned, abortion is or will soon be illegal in many states. Unlike real medical clinics, CPCs do not have to keep your personal information confidential. The personal information gathered by CPCs could be used as evidence in civil or criminal cases against people who get abortions, those who help them, and healthcare providers.
But they offer free pregnancy tests and I need one.
You may be looking for pregnancy verification to apply for state funding for your abortion. YOU DO NOT need to do this. Abortion providers will give you a free pregnancy test at your appointment. You will not have to pay for it.
If you need a free pregnancy test for another reason, contact a community health clinic or family planning clinic. They can help you get a free pregnancy test. Find free pregnancy tests in Washington here.
How can I spot a crisis pregnancy center?
Look for the words “pregnancy options,” “pregnancy resource center,” or “pregnancy care center” in your internet search results, on advertisements, and on their signage. Here are some examples of what you might see in your internet search results. The crisis pregnancy centers are circled:
If you call them, ask if they provide abortions, and, if they don’t, ask if they will they refer you to an abortion provider. If the “clinic” does not provide abortions and will not give you a referral it is probably a crisis pregnancy center.
You can also tell by the way they handle your pregnancy test. If you go in for a free pregnancy test and they do not give you the result right away, they refuse to tell you the result, or will not give you the result in writing, you are at a crisis pregnancy center.
In short, crisis pregnancy centers:
- Will not refer you to abortion providers,
May not give you your pregnancy test result or will delay giving it to you,
May not give you complete information about your options,
May not have licensed medical providers on staff,
Advertisements may include the words “pregnancy options,” “pregnancy resource center,” or “pregnancy care center.”
What’s at a real abortion clinic?
Abortion clinics are health care facilities with trained medical care providers on staff. Internet listings and advertisements will use words like “abortion clinic,” “abortion provider,” and “family planning services” (though beware of CPCs that put those words on their internet listings and ads). Real abortion clinics provide:
Medical and surgical abortions,
Counseling about all options including parenthood, adoption, or abortion,
Birth control services (emergency contraception, pills, implants, injections, IUDs, etc.),
Lab tests for pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and other conditions,
Medical treatment of sexually transmitted infections and other conditions,
Referrals to prenatal or specialty care,
State-licensed physicians and nurse practitioners to provide services,
State-licensed providers to interpret ultrasounds, and
Test results without unnecessary delay.
Where can I get help?
There are referral services that can direct you to reproductive health clinics (also called family planning clinics or women’s health clinics) near you that provide abortion and birth control.
All Options: Operates a toll-free talkline to provide judgment-free support for pregnancy options, pregnancy loss, abortion, adoption, parenting, infertility, or other reproductive decisions and experiences. (Formerly known as Backline.) By phone: 1-888-493-0092
AbortionFinder.org: A directory of trusted, verified abortion service providers in the United States. Also shares what to expect from a medication abortion versus an in-clinic abortion.
Northwest Abortion Access Fund: Provides referrals, fundraising counseling, and financial help to pay for abortions and related travel. By phone: 1-866-NWAAF10 (1-866-692-2310)
Repro Legal Helpline: Free, confidential helpline where you can get legal information or advice about self-managed abortion, young people’s access to abortion or judicial bypass, and referrals to local resources.
Run by If/When/How. By phone: 1-844-868-2812
If you are in financial need, you can apply for state medical coverage for an abortion or prenatal care.
Go to www.washingtonconnection.org. You do not need to show a doctor’s note that you are pregnant to get this coverage; all you need to do is say that you took either a home or medical pregnancy test and it was positive.
The state Department of Health also has information about abortion access here.
For more information about your reproductive rights in Washington State, see our list of free publications.
This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. This information is current as of June 2022. Updated by Kim Clark and Chloe Phalan 6/23/2022.
Acknowledgments to Sara Ainsworth, Priya Walia, Janet Chung and the Legal Voice Health workgroup for their work developing this memo.
© 2022 Legal Voice — 1-206-682-9552
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)