Imagine if an individual went to seek medical treatment, were seen and given medical advice by someone that they thought was a medical professional, and later found out that that person had little medical training and had lied about the options that they had. Imagine if a doctor were to withhold information about a possible treatment because they did not want the patient to seek that treatment, despite it being medically necessary. Imagine if a doctor lied to their patient about the possible side effects of a treatment. But worst of all, imagine if the people thought to be doctors, or at the very least medical professionals, were not what they seemed to be. Instead, their only goal was to manipulate a patient to keep their pregnancy no matter what.
Crisis pregnancy centers look like they provide women’s health services. They even look like abortion clinics. Their employees wear white coats and they help anyone who walks through the door to get pregnancy tests, STD tests, and ultrasounds. But crisis pregnancy centers are usually religious or conservative organizations whose goal is to make sure that pregnant women do not terminate their pregnancies. They target low-income communities and people of color, usually through offering resources such as ultrasounds and baby clothes, but with strings attached. Those strings can be anything from being forced to attend classes with religious messaging, to being outright lied to about abortions and the dangers associated with them. Some centers even go as far as to outright lie about the effectiveness and dangers associated with birth control.
In a state that has codified the right “to choose or refuse to have an abortion,” a false sense of security has been created. The Crisis Pregnancy Center Map, which is a project dedicated to offering information about crisis pregnancy centers in the United States, has identified 32 crisis pregnancy centers in Washington State. In a time when the right to choose is important enough to be codified into state law, misleading and false information about aboritons and birth control are particularly dangerous. It is particularly unfair to everyone that has their right to choose codified into state law because the crisis pregnancy centers that are allowed to spread misleading and untrue information directly interferes with their right to make their own choice. Sadly, there is a reason these centers are allowed to operate in the way they do. In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a California law requiring that crisis pregnancy centers display information about accessing abortions and disclose that they were not medical professionals, as it violated the First Amendment rights of those running crisis pregnancy centers. However, the very existence of crisis pregnancy centers infringes on the rights of those they claim to help. With the leaked majority opinion indicating that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to ban abortions, it is easy to feel safe in Washington as a state that protects the right to choose. But it might not be that simple.