Opinion

Debunking NARAL’s lies about crisis pregnancy centers: Part one

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As you’re reading this, somewhere another helping hand is being extended to another pregnant woman. Somewhere she’s discovering that she has more options than she feared. Somewhere, her initial temptation to abort her baby is being reconsidered, and rejected.

And NARAL can’t stand it.

While most pro-aborts hate crisis pregnancy centers for giving women an alternative path and demonstrating the culture of life’s true spirit (plus putting a dent in Big Choice’s bottom line), the National Abortion Rights Action League’s CPC derangement syndrome is in a class by itself. In their ongoing smear campaign against CPCs, NARAL has stooped to censorshipfraudulent Yelp reviews, and cheap knock-offs of Live Action’s abortion industry exposés that purport to catch CPCs in similar acts of deceit.

Their latest effort: a nationwide report entitled, creatively enough, “Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie: The Insidious Threat to Reproductive Freedom.” Is the three-thousandth time the charm? 

Sin #1: CPCs are “cagey and deceitful” about their aims, even as “their umbrella organizations are quite clear about their ideological agenda.”

Citing quotes from various pro-life sites and CPC networks openly stating their desire to end abortion, the report complains:

The alarming fact remains that women who go to CPCs have no way of knowing that what looks like a typical women’s clinic is in fact operated by anti-choice ideologues intent on convincing them not to choose abortion (or use contraception) through deceit and coercion.

These fake clinics do not willingly disclose their true nature to their “clients,” and it’s not hard to see why: If women knew that CPCs existed only to scare them out of considering their full range of reproductive health-care options, particularly abortion, they would avoid them entirely.

How considerate of NARAL to open with a succinct demonstration of the bias through which their findings will be filtered. To them, opposing abortion makes CPCs inherently untrustworthy—as if championing abortion isn’t ideological (to say nothing of the abortion industry’s profit motive). This is a classic expression of the arrogant liberal notion that they alone embody a clear-eyed devotion to the common good, while everyone else is driven by prejudice and self-interest.

As for the idea that CPCs hide their views, NARAL claims:

Seventy-five percent of CPCs surveyed in New York City do not identify themselves as anti-abortion on their websites. While 37.5% explicitly state they do not refer women for abortion services, they still claim to be unbiased and provide accurate information. In California, 69% of the CPCs investigated advertise their counseling as unbiased.

You may have noticed that 75 plus 37.5 does not equal 100, which means, “do not identify themselves as anti-abortion” refers to something other than misrepresenting their services. Turns out that it only means 25 percent of the NY locations use the label “pro-life” on their websites. Because apparently women can’t be trusted to figure out that a website talking about alternatives to abortion and helping them with parenthood or adoption probably isn’t wild about the practice. (Oddly, NARAL doesn’t call out Planned Parenthood for pretending to be neutral “healthcare” providers: one guess what word doesn’t appear on PP’s “Who We Are” page.)

To see how widespread this really is, let’s do a little experiment. Google “crisis pregnancy centers,” and share what you find in the comments. If this is such a prevalent tactic, surely examples will be abundant. Your results will vary depending on location, but here’s the first handful of centers that showed up for me:

Capitol Hill Pregnancy CenterMetro Women’s CareThe Pregnancy Centers of Central VirginiaPregnancy Support Center of Southside VirginiaMosaic Virginia, and Nova Pregnancy Help Centers all explicitly state that they neither provide nor refer for abortion. Assist Pregnancy Center and Crisis Pregnancy Center of Tidewater state up front that they “exis[t] to promote life through Christ to those vulnerable to abortion,” and support “Life for her precious pre-born child and life for her.”

At Blue Ridge Women’s Center, the fact that they offer parenting classes but their only abortion-related service is post-abortive healing consultations should be a tip-off. If not, they clarify that “our medical clinic neither provides nor refers for abortion.” And Bedford Pregnancy Center gives a straightforward list of services. Abortion isn’t there, and the Bible studies, teen abstinence education, and post-abortion healing support that are make clear why.

None of these organizations are trying to give the impression that they offer abortions. Further, the idea that abortion is such a routine staple of comprehensive care that the average person should expect it is another manifestation of NARAL substituting their bias for real medicine. The truth is that only 0.2% of physicians in the entire country are willing to provide abortions, making it anything but normal.

Sin #2: CPCs put up billboards where people in need of their services might actually see them.

No, seriously. That’s it. NARAL actually tries to scandalize billboards—not their content, but the mere act of putting them up:

To reach their “target” audience of women they feel are vulnerable and “abortion-minded” CPCs purposely place their outdoor advertising near high schools, colleges, and low-income neighborhoods.

A billboard advertising a CPC in Helena, Mont., was located close to a high school. Such placement ensures that most young people in Helena see the advertisement and may be led to falsely believe that the CPC helps women explore all of their options.

Damn those pro-lifers for exercising their free speech rights! There has to be some way to shut them up!

Sin #3: CPCs manipulate search engines to show up in searches for abortion clinics.

All too often, when a woman types the words “abortion clinic” into a search engine, she gets results for CPCs, which use false advertising tactics to lure women to their facilities instead of actual health clinics […]

Care Net and Heartbeat International spend more than $18,000 per month on pay-per-click advertising campaigns that target women searching for abortion providers and bring them to their websites and call center, Option Line. Care Net and Heartbeat International place bids on more than 100 keywords, including “abortion,” “morning-after pill,” and “women’s health clinics.”

NARAL claims their efforts to “expose” this got Google to pull over two-thirds of the ads they identified. But in an in-depth look at the controversy, Jill Stanek got confirmation from CareNet, CompassCare, Heartbeat International, Heroic Media, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, Online for Life, and Vitae Foundation that none of their ads were removed.

Also, you may have noticed that NARAL says that “abortion clinic” yields results for CPCs, insinuating they bid on the exact phrase, but only explicitly claim that they bid on “abortion” alone. That’s because CareNet marketing VP Melinda Gipson tells Stanek they never bought the phrase, and that it more likely came up via Google’s AdWords bidding engine, in which Google itself ultimately decides what matches.

It’s not dishonest for someone offering abortion alternatives to try to reach people searching for the general subject of abortion, unless NARAL doesn’t consider women intelligent enough to confuse Google results with the actual contents of a link—especially with the ubiquity of the Internet in today’s culture, it’s hard to imagine anyone that unfamiliar with how search engines work.

What would be dishonest? If the ads themselves falsely claimed to offer abortion. But as Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Matt Bowman shows with numerous examples, they don’t. The smear boils down to NARAL thinking that pro-abortion outfits have a monopoly on phrases like “abortion information” and “medical service.” But don’t take his word for it—take the justice system’s:

After a NARAL-backed law against pro-life centers passed in Montgomery County, Md., Alliance Defending Freedom got a permanent court order striking it down. The judge emphasized “the lack of any evidence that the practices of [pregnancy care centers] are causing pregnant women to be misinformed.” “All the County has brought forth,” he wrote, are “intuition and suppositions.”

Sin #4: “Co-Location Strategies.”

By locating near clinics that provide comprehensive information and services [by which NARAL means abortion clinics] CPCs purposefully try to confuse patients into mistakenly entering their deceitful clinics.

Yes, so demented is this endeavor that the very presence of a CPC in an abortion mill’s vicinity is deemed dishonest. And not just abortion mills—they cite as examples of nefarious “co-location” the fact that “11 of the 14 state universities in Ohio have a CPC within 5 miles of the campus” (apparently the real sin is being accessible to young women who Big Choice wants all to itself).

It’s perfectly legitimate for pregnancy centers to be near abortion mills, to make themselves most easily available to women looking for solutions, to let them know just how accessible the rest of their options are. But with the confusion theory, NARAL is in effect arguing that these women are too stupid to read the name or check the address of a building, both of which they presumably looked up to get there in the first place, before walking into it. (Gee, there are a lot of things so-called feminists seem to think women just aren’t bright enough to handle…)

* * *
Incredibly, we’ve only scratched the surface of NARAL’s latest batch of lies. Click here for part two, and here for part three.

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