The Womxn Project is a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
We are submitting testimony to very strongly oppose S431, which would create a license plate that funnels money to fake health centers that lie to people who think they’re facing an unintended pregnancy. That is horrific – and unacceptable. 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.
CPCs advertise services like pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, and resources. Some even say they offer abortion referrals. However, in reality, they fail to provide medically accurate information and even mislead people about their abortion care options. They advertise in low-income neighborhoods and near college campuses, places where they lure in folks who know an unintended pregnancy would be particularly difficult and who might not have the funds or support to become a parent or add to their family and really need information about all of their options.
- 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.
- Fake clinics are often made to look like medical facilities even though they rarely have ANY trained health professionals or provide much of any real medical care.
- They push inaccurate science and many outright lie to people about complication rates (very low) and other myths the disproven link between abortion and fertility challenges or increased cancer risk. There are sham facilities in our state that push a harmful and disproven concept of reversing medication abortion and others that push inaccurate information about not only abortion, but also contraception.
- Because these are not real medical facilities, 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 poise 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.
These fake clinics actively dissuade pregnant people from seeking and obtaining abortions by manipulating and shaming them and lying about abortion complications. They rarely provide information about contraception and their information is not based on science or medicine. It is about pushing their beliefs on people in tough situations. In addition to the concerns around there practices and the harm it causes, 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 abortion 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 providers 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.
Bills like S431 have been challenged arguing that it is unconstitutional for a state to endorse one political viewpoint over another, and that the funding of agencies affiliated with churches or religious organizations amounts to establishment of religion. Due to the harsh treatment and the deceit, some states have prohibited funding from these plates to go to a fake center. A similar bill was defeated here in Rhode Island two years ago after a huge public outcry.
We need to be doing more to ensure access to quality, affordable care from trained professionals to meet the needs of pregnant people. That is not what this bill will do. It will make an already challenging set of health care gaps even worse. We strongly believe that it is inappropriate and incredibly concerning to have state money go to such a place. We urge you to vote no. Do not support S431.Do not use state funds to support this dangerous agenda when so many people in our state struggle to get pregnancy related care. We appreciate your consideration. Thank you.
Jocelyn Foye, [email protected], 401-400-0061