Anti-abortion centers will grow and wield more influence after Roe

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “Woman’s Choice,” proclaims the sign in bold pink lettering. But despite promising abortion information and free pregnancy tests, the Charleston, West Virginia, facility is designed to prevent women facing unwanted pregnancies from choosing abortions.

It will become much easier now than the The United States Supreme Court ruled that states like West Virginia can make abortion illegal.

It is one of hundreds of so-called crisis pregnancy centers across the country whose purpose is to discourage women from having abortions. The facilities, which have been repeatedly accused of misleading women about their true purpose, are expected to wield even more influence in states where the dwindling number of clinics are now canceling abortion appointments.

Often religiously affiliated, anti-abortion centers are not licensed medical facilities and do not provide medical services such as prenatal or postnatal care or other health care for uninsured women, unlike clinics that do. abortions – which are subject to strict government regulations. and patient privacy laws. They sometimes have nurses on staff or as volunteers.

“Basically, these centers are looking around and saying, ‘Our services are going to be needed more than ever because there are going to be so many pregnant women who will need support during their pregnancies – especially unwanted pregnancies’,” said Andrea Swartzendruber, a professor of public health at the University of Georgia who helped map locations of centers across the country.

A little after Friday’s Supreme Court rulingWest Virginia’s only abortion clinic announced it was suspending abortion services, but continuing to provide birth control, STI treatment and other services.

The Charleston Anti-Abortion Center, which is called the Woman’s Choice Pregnancy Resource Center, has been located next to the abortion clinic for years. The people who run it say their jobs won’t change. They will continue to offer classes on parenting and health, counseling for “women who regret a past decision to have an abortion and want comfort from guilt and sadness” and will provide “facts about the risks of abortion – both physical and psychological,” they said in an email to The Associated Press.

The council also said staff must undergo training emphasizing the importance of “customers’ rights to be respected whatever their decision.”

At the nearby clinic, called the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, executive director Katie Quinonez has her doubts about such claims. She repeatedly saw patients seeking to terminate their pregnancies lured into the anti-abortion center and bombarded with warnings about the risks of abortion. Some people who visited her office shared pamphlets stating that “abortion causes new problems that can haunt a woman for the rest of her life.”

One titled “Abortion – Living Without Regrets” shows a woman crying on the cover and lists “abortion risks”, including “suicidal feelings”, “death” and “cervical incompetence”.

Quinonez said she was concerned about the dozens of patients whose abortion appointments were canceled after the Supreme Court ruling.

“I’m incredibly worried,” she said. “It is possible that they think that there may be another provider and another state that performs abortions. “How about I call ‘A Woman’s Choice,’ located in Charleston?” then they make an appointment and go there because they have been lied to by a fake clinic that says “Yes, we can treat you”.

While anti-abortion centers are mostly silent on their plans now that Roe v. Wade has been canceled, experts say they are likely to redouble their efforts to persuade women not to terminate their pregnancies. The logistics work in their favor, as many women will not have the legal ability to abort without leaving their state.

The centers have grown in every state with the support of wealthy conservative donors, powerful state legislators, and religious institutions. They also received tens of millions of dollars in taxes channeled to them by conservative heads of state.

Left-leaning states have been more willing to regulate how centers advertise their services. Last year Connecticut banned them to use “misleading advertising” on the services they provide.

Connecticut had 18 health clinics which provided abortions from 2018; there are also around twenty pregnancy crisis centres.

“As we move into this new world and into this next phase, I think it’s more important than ever that women can access medically accurate information,” said Democratic Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, who sponsored the Connecticut law.

“The last thing we want is for women to go to what they believe to be a health clinic only to be given the wrong information about their options.”

Nationally, crisis pregnancy centers outnumber abortion clinics by more than 3 to 1, but in Republican-led states the numbers can be much higher, according to a 2021 report. from The Alliance: State Advocates for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. Some 2,500 centers are spread across the country, while there are less than 800 abortion clinics.

In Missouri, which has only one abortion clinic, Swartzendruber and his colleagues identified nearly 70 anti-abortion centers in 2021. The situation is similar in North Dakota, where at least seven centers operated the last year and the only abortion clinic in the state. is moving now that Roe v. Wade was canceled.

In Mississippi, there are 30 centers, while the Jackson Women’s Health Organization – a plaintiff in the legal battle before the Supreme Court – was the only provider offering abortion services.

These three states are among 13 states with so-called trigger laws that banned most abortions after Roe’s cancellation. West Virginia does not have a trigger law, but does have an old books law that was shelved while Roe was in place.

As abortion clinics close across the country, some anti-abortion centers have expressed concern they are being targeted amid protests against the Supreme Court ruling, though historically such incidents have been rare. Meanwhile, abortion clinics have come under attack for decades.

Earlier this month, anti-abortion leaders called on churches to support their local pregnancy centers in times of crisis.

“We have an opportunity like never before,” said Dean Nelson, vice president of government relations for Human Coalition, a national anti-abortion group that frequently directs pregnant women seeking information online to centers and in manages a handful.

Some centers offer financial counseling, free diapers and pantries to mothers after giving birth. By expanding and strengthening the network of centers, anti-abortion activists hope women will see they have resources and options.

It concerns reproductive rights advocates, who fear that without licensed abortion providers, women who become pregnant unexpectedly and desperately need help will end up in places determined to deceive them. Earlier this year, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, an internet monitoring group, published a report which found that 1 in 10 Google searches for abortion services in states with trigger laws led people to the centers.

Amanda Furdge says it happened to her when she was looking for information on Mississippi’s only abortion clinic in 2014. Instead, she found a listing of what turned out to be a pregnancy center in crisis in Jackson.

“I went on a date, and they kept me there all day, traumatized me. They gave me a pregnancy test and they said, ‘We can’t recommend you abortion services,'” she said. “I made it clear, ‘I don’t want to carry this pregnancy. I want to end it.

By the time she found the abortion clinic, she said she had decided on her own that she was too advanced to have the procedure. She is now happily raising her 7-year-old son.

In West Virginia, the Charleston abortion clinic has rows of hedges blocking the view of the neighboring building to reduce confusion. A sign in front reads “WARNING: The building behind this sign is an ANTI-CHOICE AND ANTI-BIRTH CONTROL Pregnancy Crisis Center. It is not affiliated with the Women’s Health Center.

“You shouldn’t be able to impersonate a medical establishment and just lie to patients,” Director Quinonez said.

Kruesi reported from Nashville, Tennessee. Associated Press writer Emily Wagster Pettus contributed from Jackson, Mississippi.

For full AP coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, go to https://apnews.com/hub/abortion

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