In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court will be announcing their ruling on NIFLA v. Becerra –the first major women’s rights case to be heard by the Supreme Court since the landmark victory in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016. The case concerns the FACT Act, a straightforward California law that helps curb the harms of crisis pregnancy centers that often masquerade as real abortion clinics and may shame, deceive, or try to coerce patients who have made the decision to end a pregnancy.
But California isn’t the only state where these centers exist – and more and more people are being caught up in the deception.
A cursory Google search for “pregnancy help” or “considering abortion” yields many results, yet very few will actually offer information on and support for all options, including parenting, abortion, and adoption. Instead, most of what you will find are anti-abortion organizations. Crisis pregnancy centers have been shown to promote inaccurate information, imply they are medical providers, and evade questions about whether or not they provide or refer for abortion. Their misleading websites and advertisements hide their primary ideology and motivation: preventing people from accessing abortion care.
When you’re pregnant, it can be a considerable challenge to find information about your options, and to receive that information in an unbiased, judgment-free setting.
In California, legislators took note of these deceptive practices and passed the FACT Act in 2015, which requires facilities to disclose whether there is a licensed medical professional providing care or supervising the facility, or, in some cases, to post a small notice about the availability of comprehensive state family planning and prenatal care programs. In other words, it requires pregnancy centers to be honest about what they offer and what may be available elsewhere to support people in all their options. Seems reasonable, right? If an organization is confident in its services and goals, why not be honest about them?
As a longtime options counselor and advocate for reproductive justice, I know that pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption are complex, but one thing is certain—everyone deserves to be supported in all their options and decisions. In 2015, the same year that California passed the FACT act, my organization opened the nation’s first All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center in Bloomington, IN. We opened the Center to show that it’s possible to provide free pregnancy tests, peer counseling, diaper support, and abortion funding—all under one roof. We know how hard it is for pregnant folks and struggling families to find the support they need for parenting, and we believe they should be able to access that support from a place that won’t judge their decisions or their past, present, or future need for abortion care as well.
Politically speaking, pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption are siloed and disconnected, as if they are somehow in opposition to each other. But in the reality of our everyday lives, these experiences are all woven together in our messy, complex experience of being human.
When someone is at their most vulnerable, pregnant and reaching out for support and information, the very least we can do is to meet them with honesty and respect. The FACT Act simply requires centers like All-Options to provide accurate information and clarity about the scope of services we do—or don’t—offer. Why would anyone object to that? As they weigh their decision, I hope the Supreme Court will agree that honesty is a best practice every pregnant person deserves.