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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    April Fooled

    Ever seen those ads asking if you’re “pregnant and scared?” Imagine for a moment that you were pregnant and scared; this might seem like the perfect place to turn to. With little money or resources, you would go to this clinic where they could provide you with assistance navigating the options you’re considering. Unfortunately, the chances are you’d be fooled.

    In reality, many of these centers attempt to coerce and intimidate women out of considering abortion as an option, and prevent women from receiving neutral and comprehensive medical advice. They are Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), sometimes operating under names like The Women’s Health Center or Pregnancy Resource Center. Unlike comprehensive women’s health centers, these clinics are typically operated by anti-choice or faith-based organizations, staffed only by untrained volunteers, and commonly disseminate medically inaccurate information tainted by their strong opposition to abortion and birth control.

    CPCs tend to target their advertising on college campuses across the country, and often misrepresent their services to make young women believe the CPCs offer professional counseling, pre-natal care and other options. The anti-choice organizations running these clinics commonly offer free pregnancy tests and counseling, but rarely offer medical care or have actual medical personnel on staff. In addition to the fact that the volunteers do not offer comprehensive options as a part of their counseling, the time and resources it would take for a young woman to go to this clinic could risk her health, and potentially compromise her pregnancy.

    According to a 2008 survey conducted by the Feminist Majority Foundation, 48% of responding Campus Health Centers include CPCs on their referral lists for students facing unintended pregnancies. Generally, the referrals do not specify the services offered, and thousands of women each year are referred to these clinics under false pretenses.

    The deception doesn’t end there though. A 2006 Congressional investigation of CPCs receiving funding through President Bush’s faith-based Compassion Capital Fund revealed that 87% provided false or misleading information about the health effects of abortion. Some of the medically inaccurate information included claims that abortions increase the risk of breast cancer, result in sterility, and lead to suicide and “post-abortion syndrome.” After visiting CPCs, many women report they’ve been told that condoms and other contraceptives are ineffective and there are reports of false results from pregnancy tests, putting the health of these women at great risk.

    Over the last ten years, Congress has funneled over $1.1 billion in federal dollars to failed abstinence-only education programs and so-called crisis pregnancy centers. These clinics received a boom in funding through the 1996 welfare reform act (Title V), which allocated $50 million a year in state block grants to fund abstinence-only programs. Under the Bush Administration, there was another dramatic increase in abstinence-only funding; in 2008, over $176 million was appropriated to these organizations, including CPCs, despite studies commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showing abstinence-only programs to be ineffective. Beyond our borders, President Bush mandated that at least 1/3 of the $15 billion initiative to combat HIV/AIDS globally in 2003 be spent on abstinence-only and faith-based programs.

    More recently however, Congress passed the 2009 Omnibus spending bill which reduced federal funding for domestic abstinence-only education, some of which goes to “fake” clinics, by $14 million. However there is still plenty of work to be done. Regardless of ideology, we must work together to expose these so-called health centers that are putting young women’s lives and health at risk. Several states are considering bills that would specify that these centers are not medical centers, and these legislative efforts would further establish a set of standards that must be met in order for any facility to represent itself as a medical center. The ultimate goal, however, is to allow the scientific and medical facts to speak for themselves – that these clinics are dangerous and ineffective, and the stream of federal funding to all abstinence-only programs must be stopped. Have you been fooled? Share your story and help protect our community! The Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance meets every Tuesday at 8:15pm in the Stony Brook Union, room 223.

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