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Trust Women. Pass the Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act.

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Urge the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and President Obama to pass the Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act (H. R. 2543/S.1374).

What is the Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act?

The Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act (H. R. 2543/S.1374), sponsored by U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY 14) and U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).  The Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act (H. R. 2543/S.1374), is a bill that would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to protect women from anti-choice "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPCs) that use deceptive advertising practices.

The Problem

What are Crisis Pregnancy Centers?

Crisis pregnancy centers are usually run by religious organizations with a staunch opposition to both abortion and contraception. Additionally, many are opposed to single women becoming mothers and tend to use their resources to coerce women into signing adoption papers.

The anti‐choice movement for years has tried to restrict, control, and manipulate the information doctors give women facing unplanned pregnancies. Unable to shut down legitimate public‐health clinics, their most recent strategy is instead to build a network across the country of anti‐choice organizations, some of them posing as comprehensive health‐care clinics – so‐called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) or, as they would like to be called, “pregnancy resource centers.”

While some CPCs may provide appropriate support and information to women facing unintended pregnancies, many do not. Unfortunately, reports indicate that many CPCs intentionally misinform and mislead women seeking pregnancy‐related information with the intention of dissuading them from exercising their right to choose.1 In fact, some CPCs may force women seeking objective health‐care information to watch anti‐abortion films, slide shows, photographs, and hear lectures. Some may also refuse to provide information about or referrals for birth control. These practices block women from making fully informed choices about their reproductive health and may endanger women’s health by delaying access to legitimate health‐care services.

Today, there are CPCs in every state and dozens of countries overseas. Many are supported by one of three major umbrella organizations: the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), Care Net, and Heartbeat International. These three groups provide technical assistance and other support to CPCs including training, legal advice, organizational development, and financial assistance. Among them, these organizations boast more than 2,300 partners and affiliate CPCs; the total number of CPCs across the country is estimated to be more than 4,000. Although such centers are still largely unlicensed, many have developed in sophistication to such a degree that they now offer certain limited medical services.

There are approximately 700 CPCs that have converted to medical centers, and more than 55 percent of the NIFLA‐affiliated centers are limited ultrasound providers.6 In the CPC setting, however, ultrasound is generally not used as a diagnostic tool, but as another means of persuasion.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers Use Misleading Tactics to Entice Women

While CPCs may falsely suggest that they provide a full range of reproductive‐health services, they clearly do not. Some centers do not have any medically trained or medically supervised personnel on staff at all. Even in the cases of centers that are overseen by medical professionals, there are no regulations in place to ensure that women will receive medically accurate information and services that meet an appropriate standard of care with respect to all of the women’s reproductive‐health options.

In July 2006, Rep. Henry Waxman (D‐CA) released a study which found that crisis pregnancy centers often mislead and misinform teenagers about the medical risks of abortion. Investigators posing as pregnant 17‐year olds seeking medical counseling called more than two dozen CPCs that receive federal funding. The report found that 87 percent of these CPCs provided either false or misleading information about the health effects of abortion. Specifically, several center employees told the women that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, despite the overwhelming medical consensus that no such link exists. In addition, callers were incorrectly told that abortion could cause “permanent damage” that would affect their future ability to bear children. Finally, many centers continued to advance the myth of“post‐abortion syndrome,” even though scientific evidence shows that abortion does not cause significant long term psychological harm.

CPCs often mislead women into believing that they provide a full range of reproductive‐health services. They do so by using questionable advertising tactics and providing dishonest or evasive answers when women call to inquire about their services. Many provide little to no assistance for pregnant women planning on becoming single mothers, or women who have revoked consent for adoption.

In addition to that investigations have shown that CPC;

- claim emergency contraception (which can prevent pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse) causes "early abortions," a scientifically inaccurate claim. They also refer to a fertilized egg as a "life." Emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after pill," prevents pregnancy by either delaying ovulation or by thickening the mucus around the uterus to make implantation less likely.

However, pregnancy, as defined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and recognized by the vast majority of the medical community, begins when a fertilized egg implants into the uterine wall. This usually occurs a few days after fertilization from sexual intercourse, and a pregnancy is completely undetectable before this point.

In fact, it may take several days for a sperm to unite with an egg. From this information, we gather that many CPCs are claiming "life" somehow begins before pregnancy. Between 30% and 70% of fertilized eggs naturally fail to implant. No research has shown that emergency contraception has any affect on an established pregnancy.

Declaring this very safe method of back-up contraception to be an "abortifacient" is not only medically inaccurate and irresponsible, it also may present moral obstacles for women who want to prevent pregnancy but are personally opposed to abortion, thus causing more unplanned pregnancies.

-They make false claims about when abortion is available. For example, the Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center claims the safe (and less expensive) manual vacuum aspiration procedure can only be done up to 7 weeks since last menstrual period (LMP), when it can in fact be performed until 12 weeks LMP.

-No comprehensive information is given about pregnancy prevention; in fact, many CPCs warn of "dangerous side-effects" associated with contraceptive use. Some go so far as to claim hormonal contraception (the Pill, NuvaRing, OrthoEvra, etc) somehow increases your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

-Many CPCs encourage pregnant women to "wait and see" if they miscarry, a clear attempt at delaying decision making until the fetus is past the gestational limits for abortion. In addition, some CPCs estimate gestation from ultrasound to be far past actual gestation in order to confuse the pregnant woman and restrict her options.

-CPCs often claim that abortion clinics will perform an abortion on a woman that isn't even pregnant for money, or that abortion doctors are only there to make a profit. This claim is easily refuted by the fact that clinics charge on average nearly $100 less than the actual cost of the procedure. Most doctors have to spend huge amounts of money to hire personal security guards to protect against anti-choice violence. Given by the chronic conditions of underfunded clinics and under paid doctors (not to mention strict medical ethics standards), it is highly unlikely a doctor would perform an abortion procedure on a woman that did not need one.

-They nearly always refer to an embryo or fetus as a "baby" and a pregnancy as a "life," thus pre-framing a woman's thought process with bias and inaccuracy.

-Most give very little information about their services or reproductive health on their websites. Instead, potential clients are instructed to "make an appointment" with additional questions without any disclaimer that the CPC will not be giving accurate information.

Option Line

One of the most potent tools that CPCs have at their disposal is the Option Line, a joint venture between Care Net and Heartbeat International that operates as a 24‐hour call center and web tool that transfers or refers women to the nearest CPC. During its first month in operation, the Option Line received approximately 2,000 calls and since then has added instant messaging and email capabilities to its arsenal. Its operators boast that the service receives about 16,000 calls a month.

The current Option Line Handbook stresses to volunteers that “while [they] are on the phone, [their] objective is to schedule an appointment” so that women will come to the center. While the guidelines advise volunteers to give clients only factual information, it pressures them to keep the client interested and provide responses, whether or not the volunteer is equipped to do so, by reminding them that “callers are looking for fast answers and may turn elsewhere if they do not get them.”

Women Suffer Intimidation, Anti‐Choice Propaganda, and Misinformation at Some Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Once women are enticed into crisis pregnancy centers, they may be subjected to a variety of coercive and offensive tactics intended to prevent them from exercising their right to choose.

The CPCs give out pamphlets featuring graphic images of aborted fetuses or show disturbing videos., and women may be forced to watch shocking films, slide shows or pictures . Often these pamphlets and videos are medically inaccurate or overly hyped in order to shock and scare vulnerable women away from choosing abortion.

In an effort to scare women away from considering abortion care, some CPCs provide false propaganda about the “consequences” of abortion ‐ including false claims that abortion causes breast cancer, sterility, and psychological damage. CPCs use irresponsible rhetoric to augment the emotional after-effects of abortion, often skewing language or fabricating research to make abortion seem more dangerous.

The Solution

Anyone seeking health‐care services should receive comprehensive, unbiased, medically and factually accurate information. Women facing unintended pregnancy deserve no less. When women are fully informed, they are better able to make responsible and appropriate decisions about their reproductive health.

Women are entitled to accurate, comprehensive and unbiased medical information with which they can make their own decisions.

The government should support legitimate, comprehensive reproductive‐health clinics, rather than centers whose goals are to prevent women from exercising their constitutionally protected right to choose.

What will the Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act do?

The Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act (H. R. 2543/S.1374), sponsored by U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY 14) and U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), is a bill that would direct the Federal Trade Commission to prescribe rules prohibiting deceptive advertising of abortion services.

What can you do to get the Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act passed?

Please write to and/or call your U.S. Representatives and Senators and President Obama tell them to pass the Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act (H. R. 2543/S.1374). Also ask your U.S. Representatives and Senators to co-sponsor the Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act (H. R. 2543/S.1374).


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