Sex, lies and crisis pregnancy centers
The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform released a report this month examining the scientific accuracy of the information provided by federally funded “pregnancy resource centers” (also called “crisis pregnancy centers”) to pregnant teen-agers and women. The report was commissioned by Rep. Henry Waxman after a 2004 investigation found that the information contained in federally-funded abstinence-only education programs often contained false or distorted information that misled teens about sex and reproductive health.
For this report, female investigators from the Congressional Special Investigations Division telephoned the 25 pregnancy resource centers that have received grants from the Compassion Capital Fund, requesting information and advice regarding an unintended pregnancy.
Twenty-three of the centers were successfully contacted. In each call, the investigator posed as a pregnant 17-year-old trying to decide whether to have an abortion.
During the investigation, 20 of the 23 centers (87 percent) provided false or misleading information about the health effects of abortion. Often these federally funded centers grossly misrepresented the medical risks of abortion, telling the callers that having an abortion could increase the risk of breast cancer, result in sterility and lead to suicide and “post-abortion stress disorder.”
Specifically, the report finds:
• The centers provided false and misleading information about a link between abortion and breast cancer. There is a medical consensus that induced abortion does not cause an increased risk of breast cancer. Despite this consensus, eight centers told the caller that having an abortion would in fact increase her risk. One center said that “all abortion causes an increased risk of breast cancer in later years.” Another claimed that research shows a “far greater risk” of breast cancer after an abortion, telling the caller that an abortion would “affect the milk developing in her breasts” and that the risk of breast cancer increased by as much as 80 percent following an abortion.
• The centers provided false and misleading information about the effect of abortion on future fertility. Abortions in the first trimester, using the most common abortion procedure, do not pose an increased risk for future fertility. However, seven centers told the caller that having an abortion could hurt her chances of having children in the future. One center said that damage from abortion could lead to “many miscarriages” or to “permanent damage” so “you wouldn’t be able to carry,” telling the caller that this is “common” and happens “a lot.” Another center said, “In the future you could have trouble conceiving another baby” because of scar tissue, a side effect of abortion that happens to “a lot of women.”
• The centers provided false and misleading information about the mental health effects of abortion. Research shows that significant psychological stress after an abortion is no more common than after birth. However, 13 centers told the caller that the psychological effects of abortion are severe, long-lasting and common. One center said that the suicide rate in the year after an abortion “goes up by seven times.” Another center said that post-abortion stress suffered by women having abortions is “much like” that seen in soldiers returning from Vietnam and “is something that anyone who’s had an abortion is sure to suffer from.” Other centers said that abortion can cause “guilt, ... sexual problems, ... suicidal ideas, ... drug use, eating disorders,” and “a downward spiral where they lose friends and family members.”
Crisis pregnancy centers are virtually always pro-life organizations whose goal is to persuade teen-agers and women with unplanned pregnancies to choose motherhood or adoption. President Bush has declared that supporting pregnancy resource centers is a central component of his administration’s pro-life and faith-based agenda.
Similarly, Bush told attendees of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2004, “We will also continue our support for crisis pregnancy centers, incentives for adoption and parental notification laws. I propose to double federal funding for abstinence programs in schools and community-based programs.”
Prior to the Bush Administration, only a few pregnancy resource centers received federal funding. Beginning in 2001, however, federal funding of pregnancy resource centers increased sharply. In total, over $30 million in federal funds went to more than 50 pregnancy resource centers between 2001 through 2005.
In Indiana, a recently approved “Choose Life” license plate is expected to raise an estimated $3 million over the next five years from the BMV sales of the specialty plate. Though anti-abortion groups had lobbied legislators hard over the past few years for the plate, every year that it was introduced the measure failed to receive enough support for passage. By collecting 500 signatures of Indiana residents who promise to buy the plates once they are available, however, activists were able to circumvent the Legislature and go directly to the BMV with their request.
“The governor supports the ‘Choose Life’ plates,” said his press secretary Jane Jankowski. “He believes the funds are going to a good cause.”
A full copy of the report “False and Misleading Health Information Provided by Federally Funded Pregnancy Resource Centers” can be found at http://reform.democrats.house.gov.