For someone experiencing an unexpected pregnancy in Maine, there appears to be ample women’s health clinics to choose from to discuss options. However, at least twelve of these clinics are not what they appear to be. Fake abortion clinincs, sometimes referred to as “Crisis Pregnancy Centers,” span the United States. Maine is not exempt from this infestation. The aesthetics of Planned Parenthood are deceptively ripped off to lure in people desperate for help. While services like free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds are provided, that is the extent of the medical care that is offered by these non-licensed physicians. Many of these clinics also offer the parent baby supplies like diapers, cribs, and formula. In a country with a for-profit healthcare system and slashed safety nets, these clinics provide prospective parents help they cannot receive elsewhere; as long as they decide to become parents, that is. Fake abortion clinics in Maine lure poeple facing an unexpected pregnancy into a sense of safety by using liberal healthcare jargon to hide behind their religious, anti-choice motivations.
A Google search of “abortion clinics maine” brings a list of deceptive ads to the screen. The first link on the page was to a fake abortion clinic. After scrolling past the stock photo of women smiling, it appears that judgment-free help is being offered with phrases like, “If pregnancy is not in your plans, we can equip you with the services you need to make an informed decision. We can also provide you with information about the options available to you.” Phrasing like this is effective at mentioning abortion without technically offering it and implying that healthcare is available without expressly saying so. The only thing promised in this statement is a discussion of options with a non-licensed physician and an ultrasound. To fill out the appearance of a reproductive health clinic there is an STD tab, again promising a conversation about the risks of STDs but no testing. Every fake abortion clinic in Maine also offers “post-abortion counseling” for anyone who has recently received an abortion. These clinics assure prospective parents that all these services are free, as it is operating as a non-profit. There are rarely any disclaimers that reveal the true nature of crisis pregnancy centers. On one website however, under a paragraph offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, this follows: ”Note: Only a licensed physician can diagnose pregnancy.” This misleading phrasing and overall lack of disclaimers was ruled to be constitutional by the supreme court.
The courts sided with crisis pregnancy centers in 2018 against a California law that required clinics to disclose that there are no practicing physicians on their premises. The law also compelled clinics to advise clients about low cost and free abortions nearby. Put in place to make sure people had access to unbiased healthcare free from misleading information no matter their economic status, this law was ruled as “forced speech”. It was a big win for crisis pregnancy centers who objected to disclosing information that did not align with their beliefs. These centers’ entire existence is to prevent pregnant people from accessing healthcare that will provide them with all options. The websites use pro choice aesthetics and phrasing in hopes someone searching for help will find them before Planned Parenthood. Now bolstered by the Supreme Court, crisis pregnancy centers are free to expand and deceive throughout Maine and the US.
Crisis pregnancy centers, now legally allowed to pose as medical clinics, are able to avoid any regulations and standards that come with being one. This unregulated practice of convincing a pregnant individual to not get an abortion is highly concerning. The people coming in search of help are often surprised they are not at an abortion clinic. After being referred to therapy or offered free diapers instead of access to an abortion, many people realize the deception. Clinics also choose locations to prey on low income communities. Everyone deserves comprehensive healthcare, including abortion, and should not be made to avoid the many deceptive clinics in their way first. The consultant wearing scrubs advising a life changing decision should be a licensed physician and not an ideology-driven volunteer.
Jo Ophardt is from Phoenix, Arizona, currently residing in Portland, Maine, and is minoring in creative writing.