HARRISBURG, Sept. 7 – State Senator Katie Muth (D- Berks/Chester/Montgomery), chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, joined state Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and state Reps. Bridget Kosierowski (D-Lackawanna) and Melissa Shusterman (D-Chester/Montgomery) to host a roundtable discussion on the deceptive practices of so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) in Pennsylvania.
The roundtable discussion at the State Capitol in Harrisburg was a part of a series of events hosted jointly by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and the House Democratic Policy Committee on the future of reproductive healthcare in Pennsylvania.
“As we heard yesterday, over 150 anti-abortion centers operate in our state, and many receive taxpayer dollars. The testimony yesterday revealed the dangers of having these so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (anti-abortion clinics) that only exist to discourage and limit access to abortion, delay proper medical care, and spread misinformation about pre-/post-natal care and sexual health. In Pennsylvania, these sham centers are not required to have an actual licensed healthcare provider working in a facility, and these centers are not subject to patient confidentiality requirements, allowing private health and personal information to be shared and sold off without consent or knowledge by the person seeking care,” Muth said. “The powers that be need ensure consumers are protected from sham centers that spend millions of dollars on deceptive marketing to advertise themselves as healthcare centers when in fact they don’t actually provide such services and don’t have medical licenses to provide actual healthcare services. These deceptive practices can lead to human harm and even the death of an expecting mother because of a delay in care caused by these centers wasting precious time with sham guidance.”
Most CPCs do not deliver medical services and do not employ full-time medical staff but rather rely on volunteers who are not licensed or trained to deliver medical services and are not bound to medical, ethical or regulatory standards. They lure in clients by marketing free medical services like “non-diagnostic” ultrasounds to manipulate the false impression they offer legitimate medical services.
“It’s important that all Pennsylvanians understand where we are directing their tax dollars. Crisis Pregnancy Centers have been lavished with funding from the commonwealth and have used that funding to promote dubious business and medical practices and push an anti-choice agenda on vulnerable patients in need of real advice,” Schwank said. “Moreover there is no accountability for the millions of dollars spent on these centers. Women need quality reproductive healthcare that provides them with real medical advice and follow-up services to support them in whatever decision they make regarding an unplanned pregnancy.”
Pennsylvania has been using taxpayer dollars to support CPCs in the state budget since 1997. The Commonwealth also was the first state to distribute Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) money to CPCs in 2002, redirecting this money intended to help low-income families instead toward anti-abortion outreach and the spread of medical misinformation. Since then, at least nine other states have followed suit, financially supporting CPCs with TANF dollars.
“An overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians and people across the country are in fact pro-choice – those trying to take the right to choice and the right to a safe, legal reproductive health care are in the minority,” Kosierowski added. “The most personal medical decision a woman makes should be between herself and her doctor, not between a male-dominated legislature or the Supreme Court. A woman’s right to choose should be just that – a woman’s right to choose.”
Participants include Ashley Underwood, Director, Equity Forward; Tara Murtha, Director of Strategic Communications, Women’s Law Project; Croney Bouse, MPH, State Field Director, Planned Parenthood PA Advocates; Melissa Wiler Gerber, President/CEO, AccessMatters; and Kelly Davis, Executive Director, New Voices for Reproductive Justice.
“An unexpected pregnancy can be a scary situation and the need for prenatal care can lead many women to crisis pregnancy centers. However, these centers – often tied to religious organizations – offer misleading healthcare information from volunteers without medical qualifications. Ultimately, their aim is to delay medical procedures until it is too late to legally terminate a pregnancy, which these centers never present as an option,” Shusterman said. “I have introduced a legislative package that will end funding these organizations and redirect those funds to family planning organizations that actually meet women’s health needs. Women deserve honesty and the right to make informed choices about their bodies.”
All submitted testimony from the policy hearing and the full video is available at SenatorMuth.com/Policy.