Recent UC Riverside graduate Jessy Rosales, 22, who now works with NARAL, an abortion-rights advocacy group, remembers an encounter with a crisis pregnancy center in Riverside after she made the decision to get an abortion during her junior year of college.
Looking for treatment, Rosales was referred to nearby facilities in the area by the UCR health center, one of which she claims is a “fake clinic.”
“I didn’t know that fake clinics were a thing. And that’s a problem a lot of women face,” Rosales said. “It’s just misinforming the public, which should be illegal right? It takes away a woman’s right to choose, which is just completely incorrect to me.”
Crisis pregnancy centers are licensed and unlicensed facilities that present themselves like reproductive health centers. They differ from other family planning options like Planned Parenthood because they are commonly against abortion and encourage women to seek other options, according to Heartbeat International, a network of over 2500 centers around the world committed to fighting abortion.
Also known as pregnancy care centers, pregnancy resource centers or pregnancy support centers, many are founded and funded by Christian organizations, however not all of them have religious ties, according to the AMA Journal of Ethics.
There are currently around 4,000 clinics nationwide that counsel against abortion, and according to Politico, 200 of those are located in California.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the decision that said clinics do not have to provide women with information about abortion or other ways to terminate a pregnancy, as it’s their right under the First Amendment not to, according to the court opinion.
In Orange, California, the LivingWell Pregnancy Centers is a pregnancy care center that has been operating since 1985. It provides free ultrasounds, free pregnancy tests, some prenatal care and maternity clothes, said Kathryn Deiters, ministry coordinator for the center.
The center also offers mothers referrals to other agencies to help them during and after their pregnancy. To remain open to the public, the clinic relies mostly on donations from individuals and churches, Deiters said.
In Long Beach, a crisis pregnancy center called His Nesting Place operates as a maternity home and offers pregnancy tests, housing referrals and a variety of options to women who are dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, said Judy Howard, founder and director of the center.
“We’re not a medical clinic. We have volunteer staff from all walks of life who have a heart to aid the mothers who have nowhere else to get support for their pregnancy,” Howard said.
Nichole Ramirez, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of marketing and communications for the Orange County and San Bernardino area, said crisis pregnancy clinics often make misleading, false claims to women in an effort to dissuade them from seeking an abortion.
“Some (crisis pregnancy centers) will claim if you have an abortion it’s more likely that you may get breast cancer. That’s the big issue, is that they’re not providing women with all of their options, and some of them are lying to them,” Ramirez said.
While Rosales could not remember the name of the clinic, she was told they were unable to process her insurance properly. This meant that she would have to go back to Orange County and restart the process from there under her parents’ CalOptima insurance instead of the insurance she received through her university health center.
“They claimed I had the old insurance before I became a UC student,” Rosales said. “That insurance plan was under my parents’ payments. They would’ve received all the billing for it, and this was something I wasn’t ready to tell my parents about.”
After sharing her issues with a friend, her friend advised a Planned Parenthood facility.
“I still had to wait a little bit, but (Planned Parenthood) definitely said they found my insurance under the UC Student Health Insurance Plan, and that nowhere in my record did it indicate that I had CalOptima,” Rosales said.
The stereotype of crisis pregnancy centers lying to their patrons has hurt them, and has led to picketers and other protestors harassing them, Howard said.
Howard shared an incident that occured at their annual fundraising banquet on Sept. 21, when picketers from the Democratic Socialists of America showed up with protest signs.
She said His Nesting Place center has always been outright about its Christian background.
“They didn’t seem to know a thing about our ministry,” Howard said. “I would truly welcome anyone from an abortion rights advocates group to come and see what we do.”
Following the Supreme Court’s decision in June, lawmakers from the California Legislature found that the roughly 200 centers in the state used “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform and even intimidate women from making fully informed, time-sensitive decisions about critical health care.”