Fake Abortion Clinics: How to Detect Them, What to Do About Them
So-called crisis pregnancy centers peddle in disinformation. They capitalize on the fear and vulnerability of women considering abortion, and pressure them into a decision with life-altering consequences. Anti-choicers argue that these crisis pregnancy centers offer a viable alternative to abortion. Yet research consistently shows that they offer false, and even potentially harmful information. Women visiting these centers learn that birth control doesn’t work, that abortion dooms them to Hell, and that having sex outside of marriage renders them damaged goods. These centers are little more than sources of anti-woman propaganda.
The problem is that fake abortion clinics shamelessly lie. They present themselves as abortion providers, or as a place to get a free pregnancy test. Vulnerable women visit them, are subjected to abuse, and waste valuable time. Here’s what every choice activist needs to know about these dangerous facilities.
How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Harm Legitimate Abortion Providers
Clinics who wish to advertise their services on Google have to select specific keywords. Those keywords then bring up their ad when a searcher uses them. The challenge is that Google charges per click. The price of each key word is driven by popularity. So if a lot of providers use the same keyword, it drives up the price.
In a fair market, abortion-related keywords would be relatively cheap, since there aren’t many abortion clinics. But crisis pregnancy centers spam Google with ads, using the same keywords abortion providers use. This floods Google with fake ads, while driving up the cost of advertising. The end result? Clinics have to create more advertisements to compete, and the cost of those ads is exorbitant.
How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Harm Women
Crisis pregnancy centers are not an abortion alternative, though that’s how they defend their practices. These clinics offer women nothing of real value. Their educational videos are filled with harmful gender stereotypes. Their counselors sell women incorrect and harmful information. And their outreach to pregnant women consists of little more than used baby clothes–hardly enough to offset the costs and stress of having a baby.
Crisis pregnancy centers know that not all women seeking abortions will be dissuaded. So they have another trick up their sleeve: delaying care. Women who wait too long to have an abortion may not be legally allowed to have one–or may have to have a more expensive and dangerous second trimester. So by wasting time with false promises, crisis pregnancy centers attack abortion access.
Warning Signs of a Fake Abortion Clinic
Spotting fake abortion clinics is no small feat. Some directly promise abortion services. Most use subtler tactics, such as offering women “crisis help” or free pregnancy tests. To detect a fake clinic, click on the ad of a suspected phony, since this costs them money. Then examine the site. Some telltale signs include:
- No information about the medical staff, and only a cursory–or hyperbolic–overview of abortion procedures.
- An emphasis on faith.
- Speaking to women as if they are unintelligent children.
- Links to faith-based groups, or to “crisis pregnancy” volunteer opportunities.
- No information about medical procedures, insurance, or abortion funding.
- Ghastly photos of allegedly aborted fetuses.
- Referring to fetuses as “babies.”
Sometimes crisis pregnancy centers are more honest: they directly tell women they don’t offer abortions, and urge them to “exercise their choice.” When you see this, you can bet that the center is telling visitors all kinds of lies.
The Google Search Project
Abortion Clinics Online’s Google Search Project aims to stop crisis pregnancy centers where they are strongest: on search engines. The strategy is simple: prevent fake clinics from driving up the cost of abortion advertising, and stop them from deceiving women. Simply take a few second to report these clinics to Google when you see them. Next to each Google advertisement, there’s an option to report the ad. Participate in meaningful activism without even leaving your chair by reporting these clinics. To further support the cause, dedicate a few minutes each week to abortion-related searches. Then report each and every fake clinic you see. Hit them where it hurts–search rankings.