Traveling on subways in NY, I often saw ads asking if a woman was “alone, scared, pregnant” and suggesting she call a Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) hotline for help. Spread throughout the city, these seemingly-innocuous English and Spanish ads often faded into the background—designed to capture your attention only if you, a friend, or family member needed help.
Since one in two pregnancies across the U.S. is unintended, women daily face a need for reproductive healthcare that might prompt them to call one of the 2,500 to 4000 CPCs located across the country. Unfortunately, instead of offering transparent, unbiased, comprehensive information that allows a woman to make her own informed choices, CPCs adamantly advocate against abortion regardless of the woman’s life and health circumstances, and needs.
If you’ve been reading our blog, you know we just launched a toolkit that helps women who have been deceived by CPCs’ harmful tactics to file complaints and seek justice. What you may not know, is that CPCs have been deliberately targeting women of color in urban communities.
Why women of color in urban communities? These women face significant barriers to accessing quality reproductive care, ranging from economic inequity, lack of health insurance, and scarce sex education to neighborhoods with a shortage of health care providers. As a result, they experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion. By building centers in areas where many women face these barriers, CPCs present themselves as the convenient and often sole option for reproductive health-related services.
However most CPCs are not staffed by licensed medical professionals nor do they advocate for these women’s needs. Rather than address the concrete obstacles undermining a woman’s access to care or restricting her ability to parent, most CPCs operate with a primary goal—convincing a woman, who faces a pregnancy she had not expected, to carry the pregnancy to term. At best, CPCs gain women’s confidence only to make the decision for them by offering them a narrowed view of their reproductive health care options; at worst CPCs lie, intimidate, shame or employ other extreme tactics to achieve their goal. In these communities—where it might be hard for women unable to seek a second opinion—the effect of CPCs could be devastating. Women of color need and deserve real advocates who empower them to make healthy, autonomous decisions about their bodies and reproduction.