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Often affiliated with anti-abortion Christian organizations such as Care Net and Heartbeat International, crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which are also known as pregnancy resource centers, target women facing decisions about unintended pregnancies. In many states, including Arkansas, the centers offer free informational and assistive services designed to dissuade women from choosing abortion.
In the late 1960s, before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973) legalizing first-trimester abortion, CPCs originated in response to the liberalization of state abortion laws. Beginning in the 1980s, during anti-abortion Republican Ronald Reagan’s presidency, CPCs began to receive public funding and increase in number. In 2016, CPCs, which now outnumber abortion clinics, exist in more than 3,500 locations in the United States. As of 2016, according to Arkansas Right to Life, there are forty CPCs in Arkansas. By contrast, Little Rock Family Planning Services is Arkansas’s only facility that provides surgical abortions (although some doctors and facilities provide abortions using medication).
Most CPCs, including those in Arkansas, offer free consultations, pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and infant and maternity supplies. Additional services may include adoption information, parenting classes, abstinence education, and “post-abortion syndrome” support. Some CPCs have medical professionals on staff, and some do not. Under Arkansas law, abortion-seeking women are provided with materials informing them that there are “public and private agencies and services available to assist” with pregnancy, and that includes CPCs.
The centers advertise themselves as providing caring environments where clients can receive complete and accurate information about all of their options, but the centers do not provide birth control or information about how to obtain abortions. LifeChoices CPC located in Conway (Faulkner County) claims that clients always receive “honest and open answers [in] a safe and comfortable environment.”
Options Pregnancy Center, located in Cabot (Lonoke County), explains that it “care[s] about you [and provides] accurate information about pregnancy, fetal development, abortion procedures and risks, and lifestyle issues.” In 2015, Options CPC was featured in a Cosmopolitan magazine article about CPCs’ practices. Options CPC founder Vikki Parker explained that teenagers did not have to be convinced to continue their pregnancies because “they [knew] it [was] a baby [and] the part they played in it when they had sex.” The author noted that Options CPC did not provide contraception and that, in 2013, the center received a $352,125 federal grant for teaching abstinence education in public schools.
Concerning abortion, CPCs often do not interact honestly with clients. Investigative reports, including a U.S. House of Representatives report issued in 2006, revealed that many CPCs provided clients with false information linking abortion to breast cancer, infertility, and a condition similar to post-traumatic stress disorder that abortion opponents identify as post-abortion syndrome (PAS). Well-executed studies have shown that abortion poses little to no increased risk of cancer, infertility, or mental illness. Even so, Conway’s LifeChoices claims that “carrying a pregnancy to term gives a measure of protection against breast cancer,” and that having an abortion “results in loss of that protection.” Pregnancy Resource Center in Jonesboro (Craighead County) claims that PAS is real and says that its “Post-Abortion Recovery Program offers support groups.”
In 2016, Arkansas’s sixth annual “Rally for Reproductive Justice” was held in Little Rock (Pulaski County). During the rally, Dr. Stephanie Ho of Fort Smith (Sebastian County), a pro-choice physician, addressed CPCs’ practices in her keynote address. She insisted that “we need to demand that all crisis pregnancy centers secure real medical professionals...[and] make these institutions accountable for their sometimes deceptive practices that they use to intentionally interfere with a woman’s right to choose.” To date, only California has successfully passed legislation designed to regulate CPCs. Passed in 2015, California’s law requires that unlicensed pregnancy-related service providers disclose that they are unlicensed. California’s licensed reproductive health clinics must inform patients that programs are available to assist them in accessing affordable contraception, abortion, and prenatal care.
For additional information:“Abortion in Women’s Lives, May 2006.” Guttmacher Institute. http://www.guttmacher.org/report/abortion-womens-lives (accessed October 6, 2016).
“Crisis Pregnancy Centers.” Arkansas Right to Life. http://www.artl.org/our-issues/crisis_pregnancy_centers (accessed October 6, 2016).
“Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie: The Insidious Threat to Reproductive Freedom.” NARAL Pro-Choice America, March 9, 2015. http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/media/publications/cpc-report.html (accessed October 6, 2016).
“Education on Abortion.” LifeChoices, Inc. http://lifechoicesinc.org/education-on-abortion/ (accessed October 6, 2016).
“Historic Reproductive Rights Law Passed in California, Sets Precedent for Nation.” NARAL Pro-Choice America. http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/media/press-releases/2015/pr10092015_ab775.html (accessed October 6, 2016).
Jonesboro Pregnancy Resource Center. http://www.jonesboroprc.com/ (accessed July 8, 2016).
Lin, Victoria, and Cynthia Dailard. “Crisis Pregnancy Centers Seek to Increase Political Clout, Secure Government Subsidy.” Guttmacher Report on Public Policy 5 (May 2002): 4–6. http://www.guttmacher.org/about/gpr/2002/05/crisis-pregnancy-centers-seek-increase-political-clout-secure-government-subsidy (accessed October 6, 2016).
Options Pregnancy Center. http://www.optionspc.org/ (accessed October 6, 2016).
U.S. Congress, House of Representatives. False and Misleading Health Information Provided by Federally Funded Pregnancy Resource Centers, July 2006. 109th Cong., 2nd Sess., 2006.
“Who Decides? The Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States, January 2016.” 25th ed. NARAL Pro-Choice America. http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/government-and-you/who-decides/ (accessed October 6, 2016).
Winter, Meaghan. “Pregnant? Scared? Need Options? Too Bad.” Cosmopolitan, July 14, 2015. Online at http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/news/a43101/pregnancy-centers-august-2015/ (accessed October 6, 2016).
Melanie Welch Mayflower, Arkansas
Last Updated 10/12/2016
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