Executive Summary – Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centres in BC
By Joyce Arthur
Executive Summary: “Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centres in BC”Link to full report (65 pages, PDF file)
Most agencies that counsel pregnant women are actually anti-abortion Christian ministries. Their main goal is to stop women from having abortions. These centres are generally not medical facilities, and most of their “counsellors” are volunteers who are not medical professionals and have no recognized training in counselling. Some of these centres are called Crisis Pregnancy Centres or “CPCs”, although many of them have different names. (Our research report uses the term CPCs to refer to all such centres.)
CPCs far outnumber abortion clinics. There are 4,000 CPCs in the United States, compared to about 800 abortion clinics. In Canada, there are about 200 CPCs and roughly 25 abortion clinics. In BC, there are about 30 CPCs and 6 abortion clinics.
Previous studies have shown that most CPCs misinform and try to intimidate women out of having abortions. Women describe being harassed, bullied, and given blatantly false information. Counseling techniques used by CPCs frequently induce anxiety and emotional trauma in women considering abortion. Many women say their confidentiality has been violated, and that mistreatment by CPCs has threatened their health.
We wanted to find out what these centres were doing and saying to women in BC, and whether they were engaging in the same type of deceptive or harmful practices. Indeed, we found that they tend to hide their true agenda from women, and dispense inaccurate information about abortion, some of it dangerous. They usually don’t say upfront they are religious, and may disrespect women’s spiritual values by trying to impose fundamentalist Christianity. Their counseling techniques may create confusion and stress for women considering abortion. If she’s coming to the CPC for post-abortion counseling, the counseling is designed to make a woman feel guilty for killing her baby, requiring her to personify and mourn her fetus before she can obtain forgiveness from God.
We hired a doctor, medical researcher, and counselor to go through a Training Manual used by many CPCs in Canada to train their “counsellors.” There were serious inaccuracies and distortions found in many areas. For example, abortion methods are described incompletely and inaccurately, and usually in inflammatory ways. Several methods are described that are not even used in Canada. There is an over-emphasis on later abortion methods, which are always rare. Some other false claims in the manual include:
- Abortion results in many serious physical complications, including perforation of the uterus, laceration of the cervix, infection, and hemorrhage. It’s strongly implied that these complications are routine and frequent, with no mention that the probability of a serious complication is very low.
- Abortion leads to a higher risk of breast cancer and infertility.
- In future pregnancies, abortion leads to higher rates of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and placenta previa.
- In most women, abortion causes “post-abortion syndrome”, a form of post-traumatic stress that leads to such things as depression, nightmares, and suicidal thoughts.
- Contraception has a high failure rate, and condoms do not protect adequately against sexually transmitted diseases.
We conducted various other activities to find out more about CPCs and their influence in communities across BC.
- We called and visited CPCs posing as pregnant women or mothers of pregnant women. They provided us with the same types of misinformation on abortion as in the Volunteer Training Manual.
- We sent a survey to women’s centres and other community groups to find out how much staff knew about their local CPCs, and what impact they had on women and communities. Many centres were unaware of the CPCs and their agenda. Those that knew about them often reported that their clients had had negative experiences there.
- We phoned almost 300 walk-in medical clinics, doctor’s offices, and hospitals throughout BC, posing as a pregnant woman who wants an abortion, to test if they referred appropriately to an abortion clinic or a pro-choice family planning service. The majority of healthcare agencies did not refer appropriately for abortion, and a few even referred our caller to a CPC.
- We visited many Women’s Centres, family planning clinics, and public health nurses across BC. We talked to them about the local availability of abortion and family planning services, and if women encountered problems finding services. We also provided information to them so they could refer women appropriately for abortions.
As a result of the findings, suggested recommendations and future goals include:
- Stop deceptive advertising and false representations of CPCs in the media.
- Remove CPCs from referral lists used by the medical profession or social services.
- Ensure that the medical profession and social services have accurate information so they can refer women for abortion appropriately.
- Create more pro-choice counselling in communities, both options and post-abortion.
- Lobby governments and public foundations to stop funding CPCs.
- Ask Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the charity status of CPCs that have it.