A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

by Cynthia Baratta

I recently learned about “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (CPCs) and feel compelled to shout from the rooftops the enraging facts I now know. These centers — more accurately called anti-abortion centers (AACs) or “fake clinics” — often pretend to provide comprehensive pregnancy care. But they are usually no more than anti-abortion propaganda centers. 

Many AACs are well-funded by right-wing religious organizations, politicians, and anti-choice advocates who are part of a massive and powerful nationwide anti-abortion network. Their growth has boomed in the last few decades. Currently AACs outnumber licensed abortion clinics in the U.S. by a factor of 3 to 1.

Shockingly, there are somewhere between 30 and 60 AACs in Massachusetts. Yes, you read that correctly — in blue, progressive Massachusetts. We don’t have an exact number because AACs hide in the shadows. They often occupy space in or near the same buildings that house legitimate medical practices. Using a variety of deceitful tactics, like promising free diapers and “counseling,” they lure pregnant people into conversations allegedly about their “options” while aggressively steering them away from one critical option – abortion. 

AACs are not medical facilities.

Typically, AACs have no licensed medical professionals, yet they offer free ultrasounds. They are not required to comply with HIPAA standards, yet they collect confidential medical information. They peddle ideological counseling, religious rhetoric, and extremely dangerous misinformation to steer clients away from considering abortion. Many staff openly lie to clients, sometimes while wearing scrubs or a white coat and posing to be someone they are not. 

I believe this is amoral. Worst of all, AACs target young persons who are scared, vulnerable, trusting, usually low-income, and often people of color. Many who have suffered the trauma of being lured into an AAC say that it took them years, even decades, to be able to trust a real medical professional again.

On the Saturday of last Mother’s Day weekend, I joined approximately 40 other activists in a “standout” to expose one such AAC. Your Options Medical is an anti-abortion center located at 1180 Beacon Street in Brookline, Massachusetts — the heart of world-class Longwood Medical Area. As one fellow protester commented, “They have a lot of chutzpah to locate here in this neighborhood!” A physician, who provides reproductive care in the same building, emerged from her office to ask us what we were protesting about. When we told her, she was shocked. Even she had no idea what Your Options Medical was up to.

Abortion is health care.

I am 70 years old, was raised in a Catholic home, and went to Catholic schools. My own feelings about abortion have evolved over the decades. I’m incredibly grateful that I never had to face that decision, yet I know so many women who have. All have felt fortunate that the choice was theirs to make and they had access to legitimate health care providers. 

Simply put, abortion is health care. Reproductive rights are civil rights. We need to do everything we can to make sure that our society ensures persons of child-bearing age are safe and empowered to get the care they need — and the care they choose. One important way to do this is to expose AACs for what they are. As one of my fellow protestors put it, “They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

I was proud to stand with the Feminist Action Team of Indivisible Massachusetts Coalition and our local political leaders to rid Massachusetts of these insidious AACs once and for all. What better way to celebrate parenthood than to ensure that all pregnant persons have access to accurate information about all of their options in making the most transformative decision of their lives.