Fake clinics: Exposed!

by Laurie Veninger, IMC Feminist Action Team chair

On Mother’s Day weekend, the IMC Feminist Action Team organized activists across Massachusetts to hold coordinated stand outs at nine of the anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers in the state. Despite our state’s AG and Governor’s stance against these fake centers, there are between 30-60 of these unregulated anti-abortion centers in Massachusetts – which is three to six times the number of licensed abortion clinics in the state. 

Massachusetts seeks to curb abuses, warns consumers.

Governor Healey recently signed off on a $1 million education campaign (see HERE) to warn the public about these fake clinics, and the Attorney General’s office has posted a consumer advisory on its website. Legislation to regulate them has been proposed by State Senator Rausch (S.1114) and local municipalities such as Somerville and Cambridge (see HERE) have scrambled to limit the false advertising that the centers useto draw in vulnerable and unsuspecting people seeking abortion.

While anti-abortion centers in Massachusetts do not receive government funds, there are thousands of centers across the country that get millions of dollars in federal taxpayer funding according to this 2022 AP News article. As one would expect, states with new abortion bans are diverting even more taxpayer money to these fake centers (as can be seen in Florida and Arkansas). Some of these same states refuse to fund basic healthcare – calling into question their “pro-life” claims. And, since the anti-abortion centers are often religiously affiliated and funded, this use of public funds is also a further erosion of the all-too-thin separation of church and state.

The Feminist Action Team intentionally decided to hold statewide standouts on Mother’s Day weekend to honor the choice of those who become mothers and of those who choose not to be. 

The anti-abortion CPCs interpose themselves into this very personal decision with inaccuracies and sometimes lies. They claim to offer information that is often cherry-picked, biased and inaccurate — including the claim that abortions cause breast cancer or mental health issues (both untrue). In some cases, they use unethical tactics, such as telling patients they have more weeks to decide whether to move forward with their pregnancies than they actually do. The fake clinics often pose as health centers by offering pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, but there are rarely any licensed medical professionals on hand and no ob-gyn services are offered. In some places they even divert patients on their way to real clinics. The irony is this: they claim to offer options, yet the only option is to carry a pregnancy to term.

Statewide standouts advance public awareness.

The May 13th Expose Fake Clinics Standouts made this point.

In Greenfield more than 100 activists from across western Massachusetts gathered to protest a local anti-abortion center. At the Town Common they heard from Jenifer McKenna, co-author of Designed to Deceive, a comprehensive report on CPCs, and from young people from Generation Ratify Amherst. The activists then marched to the Alternatives Pregnancy Center. See this Greenfield Recorder story on the event.

More than 20 activists stood before the Clearway Clinic in Springfield, where inspiring young people led the group in chants and songs. Two counter protesters sat quietly nearby, prompting some to remember the days-gone-by when folks could disagree without nastiness and coexist without forcing everyone to conform to their beliefs.

At Your Options Medical Center in Brookline approximately 50 activists heard from Somerville City Councillor Kristen Strezo, instrumental in implementing municipal legislation, and from State Rep. Tommy Vitolo. The group was pleasantly surprised to have a doctor from another office in the same building join their standout. Boston University students were also in attendance, as this center attempts to lure local students away from real clinics.

In Lowell approximately 20 activists stood outside the lovely Victorian building where the Pregnancy Care Center is located. The director of the center invited the activists to tour the premises with the woman who trains the center’s volunteers. She insisted that they never interfere with personal decisions, but it was unclear what information on abortion the center offers. The guide claimed that this particular center is not religiously affiliated nor a part of a larger corporation — although it does have a second location in Haverhill. They claimed that they were not posing as a licensed medical facility and offer support for those intending to carry pregnancies to term until their babies turn one. 

Falmouth activists lined the busy street outside the Birthright center, accompanied by a young woman from the Falmouth Enterprise who took copious notes. The attendees, who included residents of Martha’s Vineyard and the Outer Cape, encouraged the woman to do some investigative reporting. 

Attleboro was very quiet as both the real Four Women Health Center and the fake Attleboro Women’s Health Center were closed.Two local residents came out to support the standout, saying they were upset that anti-abortion protesters show up there most weeks during operating hours. They had seen this story in the Attleboro Sun Chronicle. Activists from the Cape took the long drive to this location, as patients from the Cape & Islands are routinely sent to receive abortion care at the Four Women Health Center and are often greeted by anti-abortion religious protesters there. See this WBUR story.

Worcester had a brave showing at the front door of Problem Pregnancy, making it crystal clear that this was the fake center — as opposed to the nearby Planned Parenthood office, which routinely has protesters outside. Carrie Baker, a member of the Feminist Action Team, highlighted this centerin a recent MS Magazine article. r.

At Marlborough’s two fake centers, First Concern Pregnancy Resource Center and the Birthright center, activists alerted motorists about the fake clinic locations with their signs and spoke to a few passersby on a quiet morning.

At Natick’s Pregnancy Help center activists engaged curious neighbors about the facts of fake centers. A few even signed up for emails to learn more. 

The Feminist Action Team and all of the standout organizers feel that we took an important step in informing the public about the dangers of anti-abortion CPCs and their locations here in Massachusetts. We are now asking attendees and other supporters to write Letters to the Editors of their local papers to spread the word.

Urge your legislators to curb AAC abuses.

While the Feminist Action Team and IMC allies continue to educate Commonwealth residents about the abusive practices of AACs, you can help by urging your state rep and senator to support S.1114 and its companion bill  H.1599. In addition to requiring all ultrasound technicians in the state to work under the supervision of a licensed health care provider — essentially stripping ultrasound services from most CPCs in the Commonwealth — the measures would provide a permanent list of legitimate abortion providers in the state and direct ongoing educational and outreach efforts related to AACs.