HELENA – Crisis pregnancy centers in Montana mislead women about their health care options, including abortion, a study released Thursday by NARAL Pro-Choice Montana concludes.
The group undertook an investigation of these centers from May to September 2012. That included sending in women posing as pregnant to nine of the estimated 20 Montana centers to gather information.
“These centers offer services to women facing an unintended pregnancy, but are fraught with problems – most notably biased and incorrect information provided to clients, failure to abide by applicable regulations to protect consumers and their distinct connection to the extreme right-wing political groups,” the study concluded.
Many clinics present themselves as legitimate medical clinics offering comprehensive and caring services, “when, in fact, they use deceptive and misleading tactics to promote an anti-choice agenda,” the study said.
Disagreeing was DeAnn Visser, CEO of LaVie, which operates pregnancy centers in Billings.
“Because we’re a medical clinic that offers evidence-based medical supervision under the direction and supervision of a licensed Montana physician, when then they say that we give misleading and false information about contraception and abortion, that is a misleading and false statement.”
Maggie Moran, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, discussed the group’s study in a telephone news conference on Thursday.
“Women must have access to the full-range of health care options, which includes safe, legal abortion,” she said.
Moran accused the centers of using “coercive, manipulative techniques” that were deceptive and intended to shame women.
The NARAL Pro-Choice Montana had women make undercover or “secret shopper” visits to nine of the 20 centers, posing as pregnant women. It concluded:
- 89 percent, or eight of the nine centers visited, provided inaccurate information about birth control, such as saying contraception is the same as abortion, condoms aren’t effective in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and birth control leads to breast and cervical cancer.
- 78 percent, or seven centers, said abortion causes serious psychological damage, when NARAL said numerous studies have found this to be uncommon. No post-abortion syndrome is medically or scientifically recognized, the group said.
- 67 percent, or six centers, linked abortion to breast cancer, and 44 percent, or four of them, said abortion can cause irreversible damage to a woman’s vagina and uterus. NARAL Pro-Choice Montana said that these statements have been repeatedly disproven by medical research teams.
The study said the centers use such “scare tactics and manipulative tools” as showing the women dolls supposedly the size of fetuses to dissuade women from having abortions, but the dolls are developmentally incorrect. Three of the centers showed graphic videos often of late-term abortions.
Although these crisis pregnancy centers provide ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, the study said, they don’t appear to be complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which governs the confidentiality of clients’ personal health information.
In response, Tracy Ullrey, CEO of Options Women’s Clinic in Helena disputed the study’s allegations as inaccurate and called the study “another bullying tactic from a radical pro-abortion group.”
The Helena clinic opposes all forms of manipulation, coercion and strong-arming and fully complies with HIPAA and Montana’s privacy and security regulations, she said.
“Options is dedicated to providing a safe, caring and respectful professional medical clinic where every woman and teenager may work through their reproductive health options free from pressure so they may make a choice that is best of them,” Ullrey said.