On March 20, U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Becerra v NIFLA, which concerns California’s Reproductive FACT Act. Among other things, the FACT Act would require all crisis pregnancy centers to promote and advertise inside their clinics for publicly funded abortion. The law raises questions about the First Amendment, free speech, and whether those who operate crisis pregnancy centers should be required to violate their consciences by promoting and advertising a service they consider morally reprehensible.
As the highest court in the land gets ready to hear the case, NARAL (the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) has launched a smear campaign against crisis pregnancy centers. Similar to the #exposefakeclinics campaign launched last year, the End the Lies campaign was launched a few weeks ago in an attempt to discredit crisis pregnancy centers and their life-affirming work while asserting that these same pregnancy centers somehow harm the women they serve. NARAL believes the Reproductive FACT Act is a public health benefit, and that women have a right to know what services are available to them.
The claims that advertising state-sponsored abortion is a public health benefit and that large numbers of women in California are unaware of the availability of publicly funded abortion are debatable at best. Nevertheless, the campaign was launched to coincide with the upcoming Supreme Court oral arguments in an attempt to sway public opinion against the benevolence of these crisis pregnancy centers.
Now, Which Side Is Pushing Fake News?
The homepage for this campaign declares, “Women deserve the truth. Demand fake women’s health centers end the lies.” In this campaign, NARAL maintains that crisis pregnancy centers are the clinical version of fake news and attempts to force them into acknowledging their deceptive tactics.
Meanwhile, NARAL clearly has given no consideration to the possibility that any of these crisis pregnancy centers might be doing medically informed work. This seems out of line considering that more than half of crisis pregnancy centers have ultrasound machines and are staffed by qualified technicians.
Further, they clearly believe crisis pregnancy centers are out to deceive women and do not care whether such deception hurts women. They accuse crisis pregnancy centers of lying in various ways, all to manipulate women into giving birth against their will. Yet, as Heartbeat International’s Jay Hobbs astutely observes, their search for actual women who have been harmed by crisis pregnancy centers has come up empty. There is not a single testimony on their Web page from a woman who is not either an abortionist or an abortion activist.
Additionally, site visitors will find an entire page dedicated to outlining the deceptions of crisis pregnancy centers. It includes a slew of accusations about how pregnancy centers peddle lies, shame women, are medically incompetent, and more. It levels charges for such crimes as having nice waiting rooms, placing clinics in strategically located areas, and designing search engine optimization-friendly websites to reach abortion-vulnerable women online.
While an unbiased person might recognize these latter items as effective marketing and advertising strategies, abortion supporters apparently see this as the worst kind of deception. Their vitriol toward crisis pregnancy centers is palpable in their materials.
Further, in the same way that NARAL cannot find any women who have been mistreated by crisis pregnancy centers, it also has trouble citing specific instances where pregnancy centers acted out of line or in a way that might even remotely be considered unethical. While the campaign does make an attempt to back up its claims, readers will note that most of the evidence compiled does not actually incriminate pregnancy centers of any wrongdoing. In addition, many of their claims against pregnancy centers go unproven throughout the campaign.
To be clear, they offer many examples of ways that crisis pregnancy centers might act deceptively, but then fail to mention credible instances in which these possible deceptions happened. In other words, there is a whole lot of finger-pointing at crisis pregnancy centers, yet the evidence provided either doesn’t back up the claims or doesn’t provide specific examples.
Are All Your Stances Equally Evidence-Free?
For example, on the “deceptive lies” page, NARAL alleges crisis pregnancy centers have a habit of pushing women past deadlines when they would be able to have an abortion. It asserts, “Fake women’s health centers will postpone appointments or give women inaccurate due dates, hoping to push people past the legal limit for abortion.”
Indeed, this would be a highly unethical practice. Yet in the place where one might expect to find an example given, or some evidence that such practices actually exist, there is nothing. There are no stories from women and no proof of any kind that the accusation is based in truth.
In another place, NARAL accuses crisis pregnancy centers of hiding what services their clinics offer. It says, “Even when directly asked, fake women’s health centers do not disclose that they do not offer abortion services. Instead, fake women’s health centers staff are trained to deflect the question.”
As with the other allegations, few credible examples are given and little proof set forward to show that even a single crisis pregnancy center has engaged in this practice. Further, even if a crisis pregnancy center did deflect questions about whether they offer abortion, it is hard to see how that qualifies as deception rather than a benevolent attempt to show a woman she has other options besides abortion. Again, without any evidence or examples, it is impossible to know the motivations of crisis pregnancy centers that use these tactics, if there are any to begin with.
While almost all the claims are both ill-conceived and unproven, perhaps the most egregious accusation comes under the last item on the “deceptive lies” list. Crisis pregnancy centers are accused of harassing patients as part of their follow-up care. Then the site offers this quote: “The woman from the [fake women’s health center] began calling her almost daily and telling her aggressively that she would die, or end up in hell, or get very sick, if she were to go through with the abortion. This woman would hide under the guise of ‘checking up on her.’”
This would, of course, be a horrible procedural tactic. The purpose of this quote is to demonstrate that crisis pregnancy centers often use scare tactics to bully women into keeping their babies when they might otherwise want an abortion. But peculiarly, the reader is then left wondering where the quote came from.
No information is given on who gave the quote, which clinic is engaging in such abominable practices, or even where this quote might have been taken from. It seems almost unbelievable that such a charge would be leveled without a citation of any kind, but that is what this campaign delivers from beginning until end.
Through this campaign, NARAL attempts to deliver a knockout blow to crisis pregnancy centers by identifying all the deceptive practices they use to lie and mistreat women. Yet so little evidence, the result is that any critical or curious person is left assuming that these allegations are nothing more than made-up stories.
Indeed, while NARAL seeks to demonstrate that crisis pregnancy centers regularly engage in deceptive practices, the real deception comes from this campaign, which fails to provide much credible evidence that any of the deceptive practices it alleges have ever happened.
Correction: After this article was published the author found a page making more specific allegations about pregnancy help centers. The article has been modified to reflect the contents of that document.