Expose the Truth: Toolkit on Using State Consumer Protection Laws to Document the Deceptive Practices of Crisis Pregnancy Centers
What are CPCs and How Do They Deceive Women?
Across the country, "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPCs) pretend they want to help women facing an unexpected pregnancy. But that's not the truth. Their real goal is to convince women not to have an abortion. Some honest CPCs explain to women that this is their goal. But many others don't. Instead, they trick women to get them in the center. They often appear to offer abortion and contraception services. They may copy the names of local clinics to appear trustworthy. They might refuse to answer questions on the phone. They may wear white coats and make women fill out official-looking forms. They will often offer free pregnancy tests and even ultrasounds.
But they are not clinics staffed by medical personnel that offer abortion and contraception. Instead, once a woman is in the door, CPCs typically try to shame, confuse, frighten, and coerce her not to have an abortion. These CPCs hand out anti-abortion material. They refuse to tell women about abortion providers. They may force women to watch upsetting anti-abortion videos or slide shows. They even provide false ‘facts' about the safety, availability, and consequences of abortion and birth control.
How CPCs Harm Women
When you ask questions about your health or seek services, you should receive complete, unbiased, and medically accurate answers. Whether you're looking for care, counseling, options or referrals, you deserve the truth. CPCs prevent women from making informed health care decisions and threaten their health. When you are making a decision related to a pregnancy or your reproductive health, time is valuable. Lies and inaccurate facts waste time that you cannot afford.
What You Can Do To Help Stop the Deceptive Practices of CPCs?
File a complaint! The law is on your side. Even though you may feel that people in power won't listen to you or take you seriously, it is important to speak up. If you, a family member, or friend was tricked or lied to by a CPC, you can file a consumer protection complaint. Filing a complaint will help other women, including your family and friends, protect their health.
Every state has a consumer protection law that prohibits businesses from engaging in unfair and dishonest practices. Anyone can submit a complaint if they think a business has broken the law. The state Attorney General or consumer protection agency enforces the law by investigating complaints.
CPCs should be bound by these laws -- they should follow honest advertising practices, clearly say what services they do and do not offer, and provide accurate medical information about health care options. By submitting a complaint against a deceptive CPC, you bring the state's attention to the problem. After Texan women filed complaints, the government took action, forcing one CPC to stop falsely advertising itself as an abortion clinic. Your actions can lead to change and help prevent other women from being deceived. You can even file a complaint if you know of a friend or family member who was tricked or lied to.
The consumer protection agencies are there to help you. The National Women's Law Center is available to assist you in filing a complaint or answer any questions you may have. You can contact us by phone 1(855)CPC-FACT or email email@example.com.
Click on your state on the map below for specific information on how to file a complaint in your state. General information on filing a complaint is below the map.
- District of Columbia
Filing a Complaint
Before you file the complaint, you will want to gather all of your information. In the complaint, you will need to provide, the name and address of the CPC, a description of the services you expected to receive and the services you actually received. As you are preparing the complaint, you might want to think about:
- How did you become aware of the CPC?
- Was the CPC advertised under "abortion services" or "clinics"?
- What services did the CPC appear to offer? What did the CPC tell you about these services?
- Did the CPC say or refuse to say (a) whether it was a medical facility? (b) whether it offered birth control or abortion services?
- What services did you expect the CPC to make available to you?
- What services were you actually offered or provided?
- Were you forced to watch anti-abortion videos or given inaccurate of false information?
- Did your experience with the CPC cause you to visit a doctor or receive care later than you would have had you not gone to the CPC?
The National Women's Law Center is available to assist you in filing a complaint or answer any questions you may have. You can contact us by phone 1(855)CPC-FACT or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out our other resources for more information on Crisis Pregnancy Centers. We also have available for download an informational brochure and card:
- Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Their Deceptive Tactics and Misleading Information Harm Women
- Regulating Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Protecting Women's Right to Accurate Information
- Crisis Pregnancy Centers are Targeting Women of Color, Endangering Their Health
- Requiring Crisis Pregnancy Centers to Disclose Limits on Care Is Part of a Long Tradition of Protecting Women’s Decision-making and Access to Reproductive Health Care