A Religious Hegemony is Quietly Taking Over Women’s Reproductive Health Care
A guide to understanding the deception of crisis pregnancy centers
Welcome back Chaise Lounge readers and an especially warm welcome to our newest subscribers! You all are what drives this newsletter, so please make sure to leave a comment, share a post, or send me a note if you have an idea for a good story to cover. This week’s deep dive exposes the insidious ways that the religious right is using our tax dollars to quietly take control of women’s reproductive health care. The combination of states who have not expanded Medicaid allocating funds to crisis pregnancy centers run by religious groups, and the former president’s banning of Title X funds to go to women’s health clinics that also provide abortion services created a perfect storm. Poor women trying to access free services were funneled into the crisis pregnancy centers.
But first, let’s move onto news updates.
The Olympic sports teams are not finished policing women’s bodies.
In two confusing situations for female Olympians, athletes were told that their shorts were either too short or not short enough. In the first case, the Norwegian women’s beach handball was fined 150 Euros each for wearing shorts to their games. The Olympic Committee requires them to wear bikini bottoms. The Norwegian team has filed complaints regarding the bikini bottoms in the past but has gotten nowhere. In the second case, Olivia Breen, a Paralympian preparing for the Olympics was told by an official at the English Championships that her shorts were too short for competition. Which is it folks, too short or too long? It seems that the Olympic officials cannot decide for themselves.
This week five women broke new ground by being the first all-female broadcast team for a Major League Baseball game. Melanie Newman, Sarah Langs, Allana Rizzo, Heidi Watney, and Lauren Gardner made up this team of game callers, analysts, onfield reporters, and pre and post-game hosts.
Twelve women are suing Liberty University on grounds that not only did they not protect the women or investigate their claims of rape, but the university forced some women to apologize for making their claims or receive “spiritual guidance”. Women at the college were afraid to report sexual assaults because they knew that they would be accused of violating the “Liberty Way” code of sexual conduct. In other words, they were at fault for their own sexual assault. One of the men who attacked a teen who was attending a camp at the campus went on to murder two female college students in subsequent years.
Wally Funk, 82, demonstrates to all of us that it is never too late to realize a dream. Funk, a lifelong pilot, flew to the edge of space with Jeff Bezos on his Blue Origin rocket ship. Funk had trained as an astronaut back in the 19060’s and passed all of the tests along with several other women. At the last minute, however, NASA pulled the plug on allowing women to continue the training. You can read more about her incredible story here.
A Religious Hegemony is Quietly Taking Over Women’s Reproductive Health Care
Did you know that in many states, taxpayer dollars are funding anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs)? When I first discovered that North Carolina was funding CPCs rather than having that funding go toward public health, I really couldn’t believe it. Let’s use my home state of North Carolina as a case study to learn more.
In June, the North Carolina Senate finally approved a long-awaited two-year state budget. Buried within the details is funding for a network of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) run by virulent anti-abortion groups. The Human Coalition, a national organization whose website reads,
“The Human Coalition is a champion of life committed to an audacious mission: to transfer our culture of death into a culture of life - to end abortion in America”
will receive $1.2 million/year for two years that will go toward expanding their pilot of a continuum of care program to become statewide.
An additional $400K/year for two years will go to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship (a CPC umbrella organization) and $50K/year for two years to Mountain Area Pregnancy Center(MAPS) in Asheville. That is a total of $3.3 million going to support CPCs that have one main purpose, to convince women to carry their baby to term. That is money that is NOT going to public health.
Why should we be concerned if these groups are helping pregnant women?
Deceptive practices and misinformation
Women who are looking for support when they find out they are pregnant expect to interact with agencies that do not have their own political or religious agenda at work. Many women who contact CPCs are uninsured and poor. They are looking for a free pregnancy test, and the CPCs leverage their desperation to get them to come to the center. What the women do not know is that the CPC is religiously based and will try to “counsel” the woman into keeping her pregnancy even if that is not what she wants. While a CPC might be right for many women who plan to keep their pregnancy, it is not right for the “counselors” to force their religious ideology and misinformation onto patients.
Many of the CPCs provide medical misinformation to patients to try to convince them that abortion is a very dangerous procedure. Legal abortion is far safer than continuing a pregnancy and childbirth. CPCs also claim that abortion is linked to breast cancer, abortion can cause infertility or miscarriage later in life, or that abortion causes mental illness. In a landmark study called "The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States" commissioned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, each of these claims are refuted by multiple scientific studies. Another common claim is that a medication abortion can be reversed. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology denies this claim and issued a statement saying so.
When a woman calls a CPC, they will not give her information over the phone but insist that she come in for an appointment. CPCs fool women into thinking that they are entering an actual medical clinic where their privacy is protected. Because the CPCs are run by religious non-profits, they do not have to follow HIPAA privacy protections. But most women who come to these clinics are so focused on their possible pregnancy that they are not thinking about who will get the information from their intake forms. Even on the website chats, if you voluntarily give up personal information, they can give it to third parties. Who knows who those third parties are?
When Morgan Trube was a college sophomore, she wanted to confirm her pregnancy and went to A Place for Women, a CPC in Waipio, Hawaii. After figuring out that this was not a real family planning clinic, she left. A few weeks later, she received an email with her full name listing the gestational age of her baby, how it was developing, along with a picture of a “fetus” in utero. Clearly, A Place for Women had shared her personal medical information with the group sending the email. She ended up filing a cease and desist order forbidding A Place for Women from using her information going forward.
CPCs and related organizations have been called out and sued for breaching privacy. Real Options, a network of CPCs in Northern California hired Copley Advertising LLC to use geofencing technology to identify women entering clinics that performed abortions and served them anti-abortion advertising on their phones while in the waiting rooms and for a month afterward. In 2017, the Massachusetts Attorney General sued Copley Advertising, LLC for this geofencing practice. The AG and Copley Advertising reached a settlement that prohibits Copley from using geofencing technology in Massachusetts.
Denying actual clinics dollars for ultrasound machines
The tax dollars that go to CPCs take money away from our public health clinics, many of which need their own or additional ultrasound machines. CPCs invite women to have an ultrasound so they can see their babies in order to add pressure to their decision-making. CPCs provide “limited” ultrasounds to pregnant women, meaning that they tell the location of the embryo/fetus (inside the uterus or ectopic), whether the pregnancy is viable, and the gestational age. A woman who receives an ultrasound at a CPC will need to undergo another ultrasound once she begins seeing an OB/GYN if she continues the pregnancy, so the one the CPC does is really useless except as a tool of coercion.
Lack of oversight
According to the North Carolina budget, the only reporting that these organizations have to complete is “a detailed breakdown of expenditures for the program, the number of individuals served by the program, and for the individuals served, the types of services provided to each, and any other information requested by the Department of Health and Human Services as necessary for evaluating the success of the program.” Over the years that the state has been giving money to CPCs, they have provided only the numbers required in the statute. DHHS has not asked for other information, at least that is publicly available.
According to the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, the person completing the ultrasound is supposed to be either a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, a Physicians Assistant in OB/GYN, or a certified Nurse-Midwife or a Certified Midwife who has completed additional training and certification in performing and interpreting ultrasounds. Who is checking to make sure this is the case?
What is the alternative?
Before the existence of crisis pregnancy centers, women who thought they were pregnant would go to either their doctor, their public health clinic, Planned Parenthood, or other women’s health clinics to determine whether or not they were pregnant. At those clinics, the staff has no interest in swaying the woman’s decision about what to do about her pregnancy, rather they listen and provide referrals to the appropriate agencies based on what they have heard.
The fact that North Carolina is one of the few states that has not expanded Medicaid results in many women who do not have health care coverage. When they looking for health care, they are looking for free or cheap options. The state is funneling our tax dollars into CPCs so that poor women will go there instead of a real medical clinic.
CPCs are welcome to exist for those who want the religiously-based services that they provide. However, taxpayers should not be paying for these clinics. Taxpayer money should go toward enhancing services at our public health centers and/or opening new clinics in rural areas where women are underserved. As Tara Romano of NARAL Pro-Choice NC says, “All tax dollars should be going to evidence-based health programs.”
At the same time that states have gotten in the business of funding CPCs, Title X funds have been withheld from groups like Planned Parenthood who also provide abortion services. Fortunately, President Biden has reversed the Title X executive order. A religious hegemony is quietly taking over women’s reproductive health care and is being funded with tax dollars. If this gives you pause, take a look at your own state’s budget and find out if you are paying for CPCs in your state. And if you live in North Carolina, contact your state representative right now (find them here) to let them know how you feel before they vote on the budget in the next few weeks.
A moment to behold and reflect upon
This week the Lakota people laid to rest six children who died at the Carlisle Indian Boarding School in Pennsylvania 140 years ago. The ceremony was incredibly moving. I invite you to spend time with this video. Click here to watch it.
That’s all for this week. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!