Crisis pregnancy centers are often touted by the antiabortion movement as being medical facilities that could replace Planned Parenthood despite most not being licensed healthcare providers and only offering extremely limited reproductive and pregnancy healthcare services, if at all. As much as antiabortion activists like Abby Johnson want to claim that crisis pregnancy centers are as “medical as a Planned Parenthood”, the COVID-19 pandemic proves otherwise.
Wisconsin has been under a safer at home order since March 24th, which closes down non-essential businesses and services. Healthcare providers are the few that are exempt as they provide an essential service. Planned Parenthood, a legit medical provider regardless of what the antiabortion movement claims, hasn’t announced any temporary closures of its Wisconsin locations and all of them appear to be in operation with extra precautions put in place due to COVID-19.
The same can’t be said for the 68 known crisis pregnancy centers in Wisconsin, which have been impacted by the stay-at-home order or the COVID-19 outbreak.
*25 centers (36%) have temporarily closed.
*15 centers (22%) have reduced hours or services and/or are only offering services through appointment or roadside pickup.
*14 centers (21%) have either announced they’ll remain open or posted about offering their normal services.
*14 (21%) centers have an unknown status as they haven’t updated their Facebook or client websites regarding any changes to their operation.
Out of the centers that have closed:
*9 centers only offered options counseling (usually with pregnancy tests) and material assistance like diapers, formula, and other baby items. While pregnancy tests may sound medical, especially when centers refer to them as “lab quality” or “medical grade”, many centers actually use self-administered tests—essentially, over the counter pregnancy tests you can get at the store. Heartbeat International, an organization that supports a wide network of crisis pregnancy centers, explains that non-medical centers “should only advertise that they offer pregnancy tests (which the clients will then use), not testing.” Material assistance almost always comes in the form of an Earn While You Learn program, a system created by crisis pregnancy centers where women earn points through classes and/or Bible study to be able to buy the items she needs.
*9 centers had options counseling with pregnancy tests and material assistance plus “limited OB ultrasounds”. Like pregnancy tests, ultrasound imaging at crisis pregnancy centers are less medical than they appear. Although many centers claim their ultrasound imaging services are used for the purposes of confirming the pregnancy, gestational age, and viability in order for women to make an informed decision about their pregnancy, the actual purpose of these one-time limited ultrasounds is to show women seeking abortions their developing fetus in hopes that it will convince them not to terminate. Pregnancy Support Center of Dodge County claims on their client website that women can get a limited ultrasound to determine viability in order to determine if an abortion is needed, but their donor website explains the real purpose of their “free lifesaving ultrasound” is so that “abortion vulnerable moms can see their baby and its precious heartbeat.” Ultrasounds at crisis pregnancy centers are not used to diagnose issues with an on-going pregnancies. APS Medical explains that their ultrasound services won’t give a “diagnosis of medical abnormalities”, which is strange for an organization claiming to be medical in its own name. Limited ultrasounds at crisis pregnancy centers are more of a glorified ultrasound keepsake rather than a medical service.
*The remaining 7 centers had STD testing in addition to pregnancy tests, options counseling, material assistance, and limited OB ultrasounds. However, only two of those centers—both Hope Life Center locations—offered treatment for the STDs they test for, but in limited capacity and only to female clients.
*1 center (in the ultrasound category) has prenatal care, but only in the form of giving prenatal vitamins. It is the ONLY center out of the 68 total centers in Wisconsin that states they offer prenatal vitamins to pregnant women that wish to continue their pregnancy.
*None of the closed centers provide contraceptives, pap smears, breast exams, or comprehensive sex education.
While some centers claimed to have closed voluntarily to protect clients and staff, it’s unclear if this is actually true due to the way crisis pregnancy centers present themselves and often hide what they really are. Clarity Clinic and Seed of Hope claimed their closures were due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but it should be noted that their closures started on the same exact day the safer-at-home order went into effect, likely indicating that the order deemed them as non-essential and forced them to close. Tomorrow’s Choice Family Resource Center and Care Net Pregnancy Center of Green County have admitted they’re closed until further notice because of the governor’s orders regarding non-essential businesses, which is likely due to the fact these two CPC organizations don’t provide medical services.
But most of the centers that remain open must be medical…right? Well, no. Out of the 29 centers that are confirmed to be open, whether fully or in a limited capacity, only a little over a third of them (10 centers) offer medical services.
*9 centers provide STD testing, but only 3 provide treatment for the STDs they test for.
*2 centers provide pap smears.
*1 center provides breast exams.
*None of the open centers provide contraceptives, prenatal care, or comprehensive sex education.
Additionally, the centers that haven’t announced whether they are closed or open have zero medical services, providing a pregnancy test alongside options counseling and material assistance at best.
The main goal of crisis pregnancy centers isn’t to provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare to women, but to counsel women against having an abortion and share religious gospel. Heartbeat International explains this mission in an article telling centers to stay on target during this outbreak: “The mission of pregnancy centers is not to operate a pregnancy center! It is to reach those facing life and death decisions about their pregnancy with the Gospel of Life!” Any time legislation has been put in place to regulate these antiabortion centers, they have successfully fought for the right to be considered religious outreach organizations that enjoy 1st amendment protections in order to continue to be dishonest with women seeking legitimate services. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that 75% of Wisconsin’s centers don’t provide real medical services and that over a third of Wisconsin CPCs have shut down during Covid-19 despite exemptions for medical providers and essential businesses.
Covid-19 has rendered many centers as non-essential during these uncertain times, but lying to women about their pregnancy options should never be considered essential at any point in time.