On Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver's segment on crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) provided an eye-opening look at some of the highly deceptive practices they oftentimes use. CPCs are organizations which market themselves as ones designed to help women think through their options when they are facing an unplanned pregnancy. However, in reality, CPCs actively seek to prevent women from having abortions.
There are a variety of ways in which CPCs deceive women. As Oliver pointed out, in marketing and promotional materials, CPCs typically do not make it even remotely clear that they don't support abortion or provide abortion services. As the host put it, "What is happening with CPCs is that, way too often, women with unplanned pregnancies are being actively misled when trying to access health care. And CPCs seem happy to have women confuse them for abortion clinics."
Oliver then played a clip of Abby Johnson, an anti-abortion activist, speaking at a national CPC conference to illustrate this point. Johnson certainly revealed some alarmingly deceptive practices with her words, saying:
We want to appear neutral on the outside. The best call, the best client you can ever get, is one that thinks that they're walking into an abortion clinic. Okay? Those are the best clients that could ever walk in your door or call your center — the ones that think you provide abortions.
Oliver also noted that CPCs often have misleading names that make women inclined to think that they provide abortion services. As the host revealed, "many CPCs have the word 'choice' in their name, like 'Choices Women's Center,' Informed Choices Medical Clinic,' ...," which seems to imply that the centers support a range of options for pregnant women.
Moreover, Oliver also commented that it appears difficult for women to get a clear-cut answer from many CPCs about the services they actually do provide. The host then played a clip of a woman calling a CPC asking how much the organization charges for a first semester abortion. The person who answered the phone at the organization responded, "I really can't ... it's the policy that we like people to come in and we can discuss then and go forward." In commenting on the call, Oliver noted, "So CPCs can lure women to meet with them on false pretenses. Basically, they are cat-fishing them."
Oliver then discussed the misleading practices in which CPCs engage once women actually arrive at the centers. As the host noted, CPCs often give women false or misleading information about the abortion procedure. For example, the host revealed that a handbook from Heartbeat International, an organization which Oliver noted has 1400 CPC affiliates around the United Sates, contains a variety of inaccurate statements about abortion that are often conveyed to pregnant women. Some of these statements include the notion that "35 percent of suicidal behaviors among women may be attributable to abortion" and that "abortion almost doubles the risk of breast cancer." As Oliver passionately noted, both of these statements are not factually accurate.
Finally, Oliver also revealed that "CPCs can and have misled women about how pregnant they are or have delayed their decision to have an abortion past the point that its possible." He then played a clip of a physician who described how a CPC had told one of her patients that she could wait to make a decision about her pregnancy because New York allows abortions until term — something which is not accurate. The doctor then reported that, based on this inaccurate advice, the woman waited until too far into her pregnancy to seek abortion services and had to follow through with the pregnancy even though she did not desire to do so.
Oliver wrapped up his piece by emphasizing that it is crucial for people to understand exactly what CPCs are and what they do — a mission to which Oliver's informative segment is certainly helping contribute.