A report issued today by NARAL Pro-Choice NC Foundation, an affiliate of the abortion rights group NARAL, says state lawmakers should take steps to regulate Crisis Pregnancy Centers.
This summer, lawmakers approved a new “Choose Life” license plate. Fifteen dollars from the sale of each plate goes to the anti-abortion organization Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, an umbrella organization for 60 Crisis Pregnancy Centers around the state.
NARAL state chief Carey Pope says her group conducted a year-long investigation of the 60 Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) eligible to receive license plate funds, including 27 on-site visits by undercover observers, 44 phone interviews, and 47 website surveys.
According to the group's report, 51 of the 60 CPCs had no medical professionals on their staff, but only 11 of them disclosed that fact to undercover investigators posing as potential clients.
NARAL’s report also says 16 of the 60 facilities offered ultrasounds, but only 3 of those centers had a medical professional on staff.
Pope says her group found that CPCs frequently give women inaccurate medical information about risks posed by abortion, such as exaggerating its psychological effects or reporting a link between abortion and breast cancer – a connection that’s been widely debunked in multiple international medical studies.
A new law that takes effect this week requires an ultrasound before an abortion. Under the law, the state will offer resources to help women who can’t afford ultrasounds find free ones. Many of those referrals will likely be to CPCs, because many of the centers offer free ultrasounds in an attempt to persuade women not to have abortions.
According to NARAL, the ultrasound website amounts to a “state–sanctioned channel through which women are referred to these CPCs.” Pope says if the centers are benefitting from both state money and state referrals, lawmakers should exercise more oversight of the centers, which are not currently regulated.
Pope says the centers “should be required to maintain an honest and medically accurate standard of care.” She says they should be required to disclose their anti-abortion position, make it clear to clients that they will be seen by medically untrained staff and volunteer, provide medically accurate advice and counseling, and uphold the same confidentiality standards as are required of medical clinics.
House Majority Leader Skip Stam (R-Wake), one of the abortion bill’s key backers, dismissed NARAL’s investigation in an emailed comment.
“The money to be distributed comes from the extra money that the people pay for vanity plates,” Stam said, “not state money.”
“The news story is that there are 122 centers around the state providing services for free for women who are in a crisis pregnancy. They need donations - not investigations,” he added.
When asked about NARAL’s claims that some CPCs are “posing as medical facilities,” Stam replied, “I doubt there is any misrepresentation.”
Neither CPCF’s state director Bobbie Meyer nor associate director Barbara Stevenson responded to requests for comment on NARAL’s report.
NARAL would not specify which centers it visited. The full report is available here.