FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Monday, August 13, 2022
Jocelyn Foye, Director
The Womxn Project Urges a Public Health Response to Sham Facilities
As more people struggle to get the full range of reproductive health care they need, advocates are concerned about the promulgation of fake clinics preying on people to push political agendas.
[Providence, RI] – Statement from The Womxn Project on the launch of a “week of action” responding to the growing number of deceptive facilities cropping up around the state and country with the expressed goal of convincing people not to have an abortion or use contraception – and often pushing lies to do so:
“At the same time that there is a true reproductive health crisis in this country and Black women are facing up to four times the rate of maternal mortality and pregnancy complications, sham facilities are popping up all over trying to trick people into thinking they are real clinics that will offer them the information, support, and services they need. Instead, these pregnancy resource centers, or crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) as they are often called, intentionally deceive folks in order to try to convince them not to seek an abortion – or in some cases even use contraception – and work to delay them to push them past the deadline for a legal abortion altogether.
These fake clinics often use names that sound legitimate like Harmony Women’s Care or Choices Women’s Pregnancy Center. Some even name themselves a slightly different version of a real clinic in the same area.
They are often made to look like medical facilities even though most do not have any trained health professionals or provide much of any real medical care.
They don’t use medical facts and many
They don’t have to follow the basic ethics or best practices of medicine. They are also not required to follow HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy rules.
There are reports of these deceptive facilities calling a young person’s parents or getting a clergy person to come during an appointment to tell people they are going to hell and disclose that they are pregnant without their permission.
And with the current legal questions around abortion and criminalization, CPCs also pose a huge security risk when it comes to the privacy of people who might find out they are pregnant and later seek an abortion from a reputable professional and worry their pregnancy status will be disclosed to law enforcement agencies by the fake centers.
There is a federal push to urge the U.S. Health and Human Services Agency to clarify who is a covered entity for privacy rules, limit when entities can share information on abortion or pregnancy, and make clear that reproductive health information cannot be shared with law enforcement agencies who target individuals who may be seeking an abortion.
There are also efforts around the country to make sure that state funds are not used to fund facilities that purposely lie to folks. Just a couple of years ago, a bill was introduced in Rhode Island that would have created a program to funnel state money to a local crisis pregnancy center. Fortunately, after a huge public outcry, the bill was defeated, but in other states, we have seen money taken from the social safety net and public health programs to give funds to facilities to produce materials claiming that abortion causes breast cancer even though exhaustive reviews have concluded that there is no association between abortion and breast cancer.
In addition to the concerning information, there is also the fact that with no real requirements these places can just open up on a whim, so while a legitimate clinic needs to follow basic safety standards and hire trained staff making it difficult to expand the availability of reproductive health services, fake centers are opening and closing all the time and can just hang up a sign and lure people in with little funding or logistical considerations.
Here in Rhode Island, there are only two providers while right now there are about 6 sham centers and there have been as many as 11. These predatory places also often pop up in areas targeting low-income people or near college campuses. These fake clinics are intentionally blurring the line between anti-abortion advocacy group and health care provider to intentionally interfere with timely access to abortion and contraceptives. Frankly, this jeopardizes people’s health and we believe that a public health response is warranted. We should not stand by as folks are preyed on, lied to, and harmed.
Throughout this week and beyond, The Womxn Project will be conducting various public education efforts to help raise awareness and make sure folks do not accidentally end up at one of these fake centers. We will also be doing a little direct action to raise awareness and make it clear that you can have your own opinion, but you don’t get to lie to people to take away their health decisions or harass people to push your own views on them. And most of all, we just can’t allow a situation where people who are already struggling to get health services are being preyed on and lied to – or worse, denied info and referrals so that timely care is delayed. This disparately impacts poor women, transmen and gender non-conforming folks, young people and people of color and is just wrong.”
Jocelyn Foye available for interview upon request.