In a new report released by NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Foundation, pro-choice advocates accuse state funded "crisis pregnancy centers" in the metro area of dispensing deliberately misleading or false information about pregnancy in an attempt to dissuade women from having an abortion.
"Everyone can agree to disagree about abortion," says NARAL executive director Linnea House. "But I think everybody should be able to agree that state-funded agencies should only be disseminating medically accurate information."
According to the report, undercover NARAL investigators went to 27 appointments at 15 different clinics. They documented the kind of advice they were given, which was compiled for the report.
Crisis pregnancy centers offer "alternatives to abortion" services and often set up shop very close to abortion clinics. They often provide free pregnancy testing and counseling for pregnant women. Sometimes their explicitly stated goal is to prevent their clients from getting abortions, other times it is not so clearly stated. They can receive funding from both the state and federal government -- in Minnesota, former Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the Positive Alternatives Acts in 2005, which today has a grant pool of $2.4 million to give to CPCs.
Not all CPCs receive public funds, but NARAL specifically visited ones that do. According to "State-Funded Deception," the following misinformation was given out at CPC appointments:
- 73 percent of the clinics linked breast cancer and abortion
- 67 percent claimed abortion is linked to infertility
- 73 percent suggested abortion can result in future miscarriages
The report also says that most of the staff were medically untrained volunteers and none of the appointments resulted in a referral to birth control. Only one clinic stated its pro-life ideology on its website.
In at least one example, the report claims some pretty alarming advice was proffered: "When an investigator asked about the effects of alcohol and smoking on her pregnancy, the CPC volunteer had no information on hand but promised our investigator that her friend used alcohol throughout her pregnancy and everything turned out just fine."
They did not name the clinics in the report, however -- House says that similar undercover studies have resulted in lawsuits in the past.
The Positive Alternatives funds are overseen by the Minnesota Department of Health, and as of this writing the coordinator of the program has not responded to a request for comment.
House says she's hopeful that NARAL's concerns will fall on more sympathetic ears with Mark Dayton in the governor's seat. She says her goal is not to shut the CPCs down, necessarily, but to increase the amount of oversight CPCs receive.
"If they have a mission, they should do that mission," she says. "But I don't think taxpayers should fund that mission if they're going to continue to lie to women."