Bioethics Blogs

The Ethics of Crisis Pregnancy Centers

“Pregnant? Scared? Need Help?”
read signs along major thoroughfares in the southern United States. Many
Americans have seen signs like these, often simultaneously advertising free
pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. Unless experiencing
a unplanned pregnancy, most people pass by these signs without a second
thought. However, for some of our most vulnerable patients, the
establishments posting these advertisements – known as crisis
pregnancy centers – represent a significant ethical difficulty in
reproductive healthcare. Although these organizations are almost exclusively
run by community volunteers, they represent themselves as healthcare workers by
wearing lab coats and scrubs, providing lab testing and ultrasounds, and setting
up offices that look like medical clinics. This would be problematic in itself
from a legal perspective but the political and religious perspectives of these
organizations provides serious ethical questions as well. Far from
unbiased, crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are usually religiously
affiliated organizations with a hard right agenda of
preventing abortion at any cost. Medical evidence and scientific fact are
not considered in this equation so clients of CPCs are often told that abortion
causes breast cancer, infertility, psychiatric disorders (such as the entirely
fictitious post-abortion syndrome), and even, in one case, kidney
failure and subsequent dialysis. Furthermore, results of testing done at
CPCs are frequently fabricated or ignored – clients are given falsely
negative pregnancy test results or incorrect dating ultrasounds to prevent
those considering an abortion from pursuing other care. CPC clients are usually
unaware that these organizations do not employ trained medical providers or that
they have a political agenda. However, the intent is clearly to strongly imply
to CPC clients that they are being given information by medical personnel.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.