Columbus — The Ohio House Finance Committee heard testimony from anti-abortion extremists seeking a $5,000,000 allocation in the state operating budget for fake women’s health centers. This is a $4,000,000 increase from the amount allocated in previous years. Amendments to the budget are expected to be released this afternoon. The committee must reject this wasteful budget request and the harmful organizations that lie to women across Ohio.
On Friday, May 3, the committee heard testimony from Ohio Right to Life and Elizabeth’s New Life Center. On Tuesday, May 7, the committee heard testimony from Pregnancy Decision Health Centers. None of these organizations are health care providers qualified to give medical advice to pregnant women.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said: “Our state government must invest in real solutions to our infant mortality crisis, not fake women’s health centers. Instead of honestly answering questions about pregnancy options, they delay and deceive women when they need timely medical advice. This is wrong, and taxpayers should not be funding them.
Copeland said: “The Parenting and Pregnancy Program funnels money to fake women’s health centers that is supposed to be provided to low-income Ohioans through the Temporary Assistance for Needs Families Block Grant. Taking these critical dollars away from impoverished families is political malpractice of the worse kind. If this legislature wishes to truly address our infant and maternal health crisis in the state there are many reputable, effective organizations run by medical professionals and experts in the field. Those are the organizations that should be getting this allocation. Not fake women’s health centers.”
What are fake women’s health centers, and what tactics do they use to deceive women?
Sometimes called crisis pregnancy centers or CPCs, fake women’s health centers do not provide comprehensive reproductive health care. Instead, they use phony ads to trick pregnant people into making an appointment, promising “free ultrasounds” or “pregnancy support.” Once inside, people are lied to, shamed, and pressured about their reproductive health decisions, often delaying their procedure or pushing them past the deadline for a legal abortion altogether. Fake clinics are often made to look like medical facilities, yet they don’t practice medicine (outside of an occasional ultrasound or STI test), nor do they use medical facts or standardized ethics. These predatory places disproportionately impact low income families and people of color.
How does Ohio fund fake women’s health centers?
Ohio funds fake women’s health centers in two ways.
First, Ohio sells “Choose Life” license plates, which allocates $20 from of the fee for each license to fake women’s health centers. The plates were first made available in 2005.
Second, Republican legislators added an amendment to the 2015 and 2017 state operating budgets to fund fake women’s health centers. Each two-year budget included $1,000,000 that was originally designated for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The TANF program provides temporary financial assistance for pregnant women and families with one or more dependent children. TANF provides financial assistance to help pay for food, shelter, utilities, and other non-medical expenses. Instead of providing this critical aide, some of these TANF dollars are now given to fake women’s health centers.
Investigating fake women’s health centers in Ohio.
In 2013, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio conducted an investigation of more than 100 fake women’s health centers. (Link opens .pdf) Our investigation included phone calls to all 107 centers in the state, and in-person visits to a randomly selected sub-set which represented nearly half of the centers in the state. More info.
Results from our 2013 study
Most CPCs seemed to have a general script that they followed with clients during the intake process. They most commonly asked about the client’s relationship with the client’s boyfriend (34%), closely followed by the relationship with parents (25%) and religious beliefs (22%). Unfortunately, CPCs rarely ask about sexual violence and relationship abuse (5% and 4% respectively). This is especially concerning since pregnancy is a particularly dangerous time for women. Less than half of the centers were upfront about who they were and what they stood for, with 42% stating that they were pro-life, and 60% being unwilling to admit that they were not medical facilities.
Although CPCs advertise non-judgmental and comprehensive counseling about all of a woman’s options regarding unplanned pregnancies, this is not what our investigators found when they walked through the doors. In 34 of the visits the investigator felt that the counselor had a judgment about the decision she indicated; and in 53% of those, the investigator felt that the counselor had a negative reaction to her decision. The untruths counselors told our investigators to try to persuade them to not have the abortion were a host of anti-choice talking points, none of which are backed by scientific evidence, including the high health risks a woman faces when having an abortion, the connection between abortion and breast cancer and the connection between abortion and mental health problems.
In almost 11% of the cases, the CPC worker also used the services that are available to women at their facility to persuade the investigator to not have an abortion. But less than 2% of the centers actually provided direct medical care to women at their center. The majority of the “service” they provide is limited material support and usually only for a short amount of time.
Results from the 2015 study from NARAL Pro-Choice America
Despite their lack of licensing as health clinics, CPCs are “medicalizing” their appearance to seem more legitimate. They provide free ultrasounds but do not disclose that the ultrasounds they offer are non-diagnostic and limited in scope. CPC workers who read ultrasounds can’t always accurately determine if a woman is pregnant, the gestational age, or if there are any real medical concerns with the fetus. It is dangerous for pregnant women to believe that a series of ultrasound images is appropriate prenatal care, because it is not. Many of these ultrasounds are medically unnecessary.