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All-Tricks-No-Treats: How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Trick Women On More Than Just Halloween

Everyone knows the best thing about Halloween—besides an excuse to wear your superhero pajamas to work (It's a costume! We swear!)—is Trick-or-Treating. While the treats happen just once a year, some nasty tricks are happening in your neighborhood year-round. We're talking about crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) and the ways they deceive women and trick them into visiting their centers in order to stop them from accessing abortion care. CPCs exist to keep women from accessing abortion care. Here are some of the ways CPCs attempt to trick women (You'll want to keep the lights on for this.):

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1. CPCs use deceptive advertising practices.

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CPCs often advertise using deceptive words such as “pregnancy,” “medical,” “women’s centers” and “clinics” to mislead women into believing that they offer a wide range of services, including family planning and abortion care. They also use messages like “Free Pregnancy Test,” or “Pregnant? Scared? We Can Help! Call 1-800 #” to target women.

2. CPCs often choose names that are very similar to names of nearby legitimate abortion providers.

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CPCs intentionally choose their names to mislead women into believing that they offer a wide range of services, including family planning and abortion care, and many locate themselves near—or even next door to—clinics that offer abortion care to confuse patients. A recent investigative report showed several Virginia CPCs with names that make them sound like legitimate medical facilities—that likely offer abortion care—including “AAA Women for Choice,” “A Woman’s Choice,” “Emergency Pregnancy Services,” and “First Choice.”

3. CPCs often design their facilities to look like actual health care facilities.

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CPCs often have a waiting room, partitioned check-in desk, patient intake forms, and an ultrasound machine. Though CPCs portray themselves as medical clinics, by and large, CPCs are not medical facilities, and most CPC volunteers who work directly with women are not medical professionals. The free pregnancy tests are usually self-administered—in other words, it’s the same one you can pick up at a drugstore and take at home.

5. CPC representatives often evade questions about whether they provide abortion care over the phone, and just try to get women to come to their center.

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Women who have questions about pregnancy and abortion care are urged to make in-person appointments for “options counseling.” However, CPCs generally do not offer or refer for abortion care or even birth control once they get women in their centers.

6. CPCs have been known to extend the waiting period for pregnancy test results to expose women to their anti-choice or religious propaganda.

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While women wait, CPCs often present them with videos and pictures depicting gruesome and graphic images as a scare tactic in their effort to compel women not to seek abortion care.

7. When the pregnancy results are revealed they may be presented in ways that are ambiguous or even false.

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Women are sometimes told that they’re farther along in their pregnancy than they really are to make them think they are too far along to have an abortion in their state.

8. CPCs provide information that is blatantly inaccurate.

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CPCs often tell women having an abortion will put them at higher risk for developing breast cancer, PTSD, infertility, and other serious medical conditions—all proven time and time again to be false claims.

9. CPCs also spread false information about abortion providers

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They tell women that abortion care is unregulated and abortion providers offer sub-standard medical care. In reality, abortion is one of the safest and most commonly provided medical procedures in the United States.

10. CPCs violate women’s privacy.

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After visiting a CPC, women have received unwanted calls at their homes from the center’s staff, urging them to not have an abortion, which is a clear violation of their privacy.

Tell us about your experiences with a crisis pregnancy center.

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You can also call or write your elected officials. Always wanted to see your name in print? Write a letter to your local newspaper exposing the deceptive tactics of a local CPC.

Halloween and searching for high-quality, patient-centered care can be scary, but it definitely doesn’t have to be.

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If you or someone you know is pregnant and needs un-biased, factual information about pregnancy and abortion, options counseling, and referrals to high-quality health care providers and adoption agencies call the National Abortion Federation Hotline: 1-800-772-9100. If you just need a referral to an abortion care provider, you can call our referral line: 1-877-257-0012 (no financial assistance is available through this number).

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