Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are Hurting Women of Color

Supermajority Education Fund

January 8, 2020

A new study on “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) published in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology reports that these centers hurt patients more than they help them. Crisis pregnancy centers are nonprofit organizations that are not licensed to provide healthcare, but which frequently mask themselves as free clinics for pregnant people. These facilities counsel pregnant people against having abortions, and disproportionately affect patients of color, particularly those living in low-income communities.

The fact that crisis pregnancy centers are typically free can be a big draw to people who can’t afford to pay for abortion services. In 2018, New York magazine reported that an abortion, depending on what type a patient needs, can range from $75 to more than $15,000. 

Kimberly Kelly, director of gender studies and associate professor of sociology at Mississippi State University, told Supermajority News that crisis pregnancy centers, which have religious ties, prioritize their own beliefs over what is best for their pregnant clients. Because CPCs focus on changing minds, not caring for bodies, pregnant clients frequently don’t get the abortion care they need in time, putting them past “gestational limits,” which in turn requires them to obtain more expensive procedures, Kelly said.

Aspiration abortions, which take place between five and 12 weeks of pregnancy, for example, can cost close to $1,000. The longer a patient has to wait to obtain the procedure, the more complicated and costly it can be.

As Kelly and her colleague Amanda Gochanour wrote in a July 2018 paper titled “Racial Reconciliation or Spiritual Smokescreens?: Blackwashing the Crisis Pregnancy Center Movement,” women of color are statistically more likely to have abortions than white women. “In 2008, for example, white, Black, and Hispanic women represented 62 percent, 14 percent, and 17 percent of all U.S. women, but made up 36 percent, 30 percent, and 25 percent of all abortions, respectively,” the paper reads. Those numbers have remained steady, according to Kelly and Gochanour’s findings. 

CPCs are only one challenge for people in the U.S. who need abortions; restrictive legislation is another roadblock entirely. In 2019, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio all passed “heartbeat bills,” which means abortion is banned in these states after six to eight weeks of pregnancy when doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat. Because many people do not even know they’re pregnant during this window, the legislation is effectively a complete ban on abortion.

“Restrictive abortion laws disproportionately affect lower income pregnant people,” Kelly said, noting that lower-income people often don’t have the resources to travel to states with less restrictive laws and may resort to may be to less medically sound alternatives, such as crisis pregnancy centers or self-managed abortions.