Debunking the “fake clinic” claim

Debunking the “fake clinic” claim (Markus Winkler/Pexels)

Back in March, Hey Jane teamed up with Abortion Access Front to offer a TikTok live event to expose “fake clinics” and “crisis pregnancy centers.” The video was recorded and is available in full on their YouTube channel. 

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This 30-minute event was provided to help equip people on how to spot a “fake clinic” and also to talk about how to treat “fake clinics.”

Let me break down what the women said “fake clinics” do; then we will look at what real pregnancy help centers actually do.

Hey Jane and Abortion Access Front’s understanding of “fake clinics”

First of all, these abortion groups say fake clinics are fake because they pretend to offer abortion but do not. Their whole purpose is supposedly to “trick” women out of choosing abortion by using lies and scare tactics or to delay women getting to a real abortion clinic so they are past the gestational limit. Further, they say they specifically target young women and women of color. 

Examples given of tricks, lies, and/or scare tactics:

● Women are given fake ultrasound images — images that are not actually from their own ultrasound.

● Women are given ultrasound images that are missing all pertinent medical information, like a date, measurements of the embryo or fetus, and the patient’s name. So, when they take their ultrasound to an abortion provider, it is useless, and this “delays care.”

● Ultrasounds from “fake clinics” have missed impending miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies; the women only find out they miscarried or have an ectopic pregnancy when they see the abortion provider. 

● Some “fake clinics” require you to sign a document saying that if they think you will use the information they give you to go get an abortion, they do not have to tell you if you are pregnant. This example was given by one of the presenters of the TikTok Live event as her own personal experience going to a “fake clinic” for STD testing.

● Sometimes you are required to give your SSN and full medical history, even though the “fake clinic” is not covered by HIPAA and can do whatever they want with your information. One of the presenters said she had been “haunted” for years thinking about what the center she had gone to would do with her personal and health information, knowing that they were not required to keep it confidential. 

● They set up shop right next to or across abortion providers to trick clients into visiting them instead. One Hey Jane patient shared with Hey Jane that she accidentally walked into the “fake clinic” that was next to the abortion clinic and was “held hostage” for hours watching videos, doing counseling, etc. When she asked, “when is my abortion?” she was finally informed she would not get one because she was not at the abortion clinic.

● They say they offer support, but don’t actually care about pregnant women. The other presenter grew up in “CPC world” and her mother actually works at one. This woman stated when she found out she was pregnant, she visited a CPC and essentially, “they let me get a pack of diapers and sent me on my way home” with no follow-up care or concern for ongoing support.

● They will employ one licensed medical person to say the whole place is licensed when they’re not, tricking patients into trusting them when they really should not be trusted. 

● They use “choice” in the name to trick people who are searching for abortion providers.

● They intentionally steal small-town abortion provider clinic names to cause confusion.

Now, how do you tell a clinic is fake? I’m glad you asked! Hey Jane and Abortion Access Front know all about how to spot a “fake clinic.” 

Here are some of the red flags they said to watch for on websites:

● Super-gendered language (all “women, women, women”). Using language that is not gender-inclusive is a pretty good sign that they are not an abortion provider.

● No mention of abortion unless it’s to talk about complications.

● Any mention of God or biblical passages.

● Any mention of abortion pill reversal. APR was described as simply progesterone, “which hopefully keeps the pregnancy tissue from leaving the uterus,” but actually, women bleed so badly they need to go to the hospital if they take progesterone after mifepristone. 

● Mentioning RU-486 or chemical abortion, instead of calling it medical abortion.

● Talk about men and abortion, such as mentioning men’s recovery support groups or telling men they have a right to tell a woman she shouldn’t have an abortion.

● Focus on negative side effects of abortion and “lies,” like that abortion causes infertility, depression, or leads to a greater risk of breast cancer.

● “Life” in the name of the clinic or website.

So, what can we do about all these fake clinics? Hey Jane and Abortion Access Front had several ideas. Pro-choice people were told that they should steal the anti-abortion community’s tactics a little bit. If anti-abortion people are doing all this work to disrupt the existence of abortion providers in the community, pro-choice people can do the same to anti-abortion people.

Stand outside and protest, or just hold a sign. If you’ve been to one, leave a review on Facebook, Yelp, or Google. Find out who is funding them. And finally, “Stay in the know, stay active, stay angry.”

Pregnancy center truth

Ok, now let’s talk facts

Pregnancy help centers are not “fake clinics” because pregnancy help centers do not falsely advertise for abortion services. 

In fact, many PHCs put a disclaimer clearly on the website stating that they do not offer or refer for abortion. If you come across a website with this disclaimer or a website that nowhere states that they offer abortion…then the center is not falsely advertising for abortion services. Let’s not treat women like imbeciles here, ok?

One of the presenters made the comment that as a Hey Jane worker, she sometimes needs to find an imaging center to get an ultrasound for a client, and even she, a college-educated woman, sometimes has difficulty telling whether a location is an imaging center or a “fake clinic.”

Cue eye roll

If a place is not offering a list of services and the cost for the different imaging packages, it clearly is not an imaging center. Additionally, the vast majority of pregnancy help center websites are going to be more holistic in the services offered than an imaging center would be, and they are offering ultrasound for a single reason, whereas a standalone imaging center could offer ultrasounds for all sorts of reasons besides pregnancy confirmation. It really is not rocket science, because pregnancy help centers are not trying to trick women into thinking they are imaging centers or abortion clinics.

Pregnancy help centers keep your information confidential even when they do not have to. That’s nothing to be scared about. It means that even though they may not meet the legal requirements to be bound by HIPAA, they still prioritize client confidentiality. They are actually going above and beyond what is required of them by law.

Pregnancy help centers that offer medical services use professionals trained to provide those services, whether it’s a nurse, a doctor, or an ultrasound technician. Sometimes these medical professionals are on the payroll, and other times they donate their time and expertise to the center.

Pregnancy help centers do not lie to women about the possible effects of abortion on fertility, other physical health concerns, or mental health. In fact, a client is more likely to get the truth about the possible outcomes and side effects of an abortion procedure from a pregnancy help center. Not only is peer-reviewed, factual information being given; there is no financial incentive from the pregnancy help center for the client to make any specific decision! Abortion providers, on the other hand, will flat-out lie about the facts of fetal development

Pregnancy help centers offer holistic support to pregnant women and their families. At one point, the Hey Jane presenter commented, “What abortion clinic has time to create all these programs?” All the abortion providers she knows of are “too busy providing healthcare” which looks like providing abortions and providing as many of them as possible in a day.

She’s really telling on herself here and doesn’t even seem to notice, which I find rather hilarious. She openly cedes the points that abortion clinics are not about women’s healthcare, are not about women having choices, and are not about supporting women. They don’t have time to provide support groups for women and men who regret their abortions; they are too busy just doing abortions.

How can you tell pregnancy help centers actually care about women and aren’t just about tricking women out of getting abortions? Well, there are a few indicators, actually, and the pro-choice presenters of this event list them for us.

First of all, most states have more pregnancy help centers than there have imaging centers! “These things are getting bigger,” one woman commented. They are absolutely lamenting the expansion of nonprofit organizations which offer tangible medical and support services to pregnant women. Oh, the horror!

Secondly, even in states where abortion access is severely limited, such as Tennessee, pregnancy help center numbers continue to grow! While the presenters acknowledge this and treat this fact as a terrible reality, they miss the point: if the purpose of a pregnancy help center is to trick women into not getting an abortion, what use are they in a state where abortion access is severely limited? 

You would think they have very little purpose in such a state. They should be closing down locations, not opening new ones! Unless, of course, the purpose of pregnancy help centers is something other than tricking women out of getting abortions…. Nah, that’s too logical. Moving on.

Oh, and no need to worry about looking out for “red flags” or having trouble telling an abortion provider or imaging center from a pregnancy help center. If you can’t figure it out, simply visit Option Line or Pregnancy Decision Line to find out if the location is a pregnancy help center! No need to reinvent the wheel with pro-choice search maps. We don’t hide who we are or what we do!

How they are funded

The last item I want to address is how pregnancy help centers are funded. Pregnancy help centers are, by far, funded by donors in the community. Individuals, churches, and maybe some businesses donate to keep the doors open; and the pregnancy help center had to raise money, likely through grassroots efforts, to build and open to begin with. They usually hold fundraising events throughout the year, like baby bottle campaigns, golf days, a walk or run, a banquet, or other similar events. 

They are not, as one presenter said, getting a “large” part of their funding from the state Choose Life license plate option. That is, in fact, totally laughable. 

If you were to search various state budgets for how much money they are giving out per year from the Choose Life license plate funds to the many, many pregnancy help centers within the state, you can see that each state is only giving out a few thousand dollars a year to a few locations. For example, Oklahoma gave out a little less than $8000 in fiscal year 2021 and Ohio gave out just over $32000 in fiscal year 2022 (but less than $7000 to each of the 14 organizations who applied for the funds).

If you think $7000 a year per organization is a “large” part of that organization’s funding budget for the year, you need to touch grass. 

Yes, some states offer state funds to pregnancy help centers that offer specific types of services. But again, remember, by their own admission, pregnancy help centers are numerous, and just growing more so! No single state is giving all pregnancy help centers in their state enough money to stay afloat. 

They don’t get paid

Additionally, just because a local pregnancy help center is affiliated with a national or international pro-life organization such as Heartbeat, Care Net, or NIFLA, does not mean that they are getting money from any of these organizations to open, stay open, or expand! Pro-choice people seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of how these networks work, even though most information they would want to know can be found on these organizations’ websites! In fact, local pregnancy help centers have to pay to become an affiliate; they don’t get paid!

Now, to be fair, what the Hey Jane and Abortion Access Front presenters could have been talking about were grant application processes. For example, Heartbeat has a grant program called Life Launch, which you can find out more about here. While this grant program is an amazing help to pregnancy help centers who are just starting up, it certainly cannot account for the over 2,000 locations in the United States. We did not pay every location to open, nor do we keep the location’s doors open by flooding them with cash. 

Planned Parenthood, on the other hand…

Planned Parenthood receives 37% of their revenue from “Government Health Services Reimbursements & Grants” and 21% from “Non-Government Health Services Revenue.” They are making literally millions of dollars a year and they only have about 600 locations nationwide. Compare that to thousands of pregnancy help centers nationwide relying heavily on donor funds and volunteer (wo)manpower!

Pregnancy help centers help women

Surprise! Pregnancy help centers actually help women and families in need. They provide real care, real support, real facts, and real choices. 

I do believe that as a pregnancy help movement, we must be above reproach. That means no lying, no false advertising, no bait-and-switch tactics, no driving women away by shaming them, no forcing them to do something. We must hold each other accountable to a high standard of operation. 

The women from this TikTok Live event have no idea about the women Option Line consultants talk to, the women that APR nurses and providers help, or the stories that you — on the sidewalk or in the pregnancy help centers — have heard. We know pregnancy help centers are needed, and that they do good work. We have seen the need and we have seen the fruit. 

God calls us to seek justice (Micah 6:8), to stand up to the oppressor (Is 1:17), and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Prov 31:8-9). We can combat their lies. We know what they think about us and what their methods of slander and libel are. I hope you feel righteous anger when reading the lies I shared here. 

“Stay in the know, stay active, stay angry.”

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