Long a thorn in the side of women’s health advocates, “crisis pregnancy centers” have received significantly less federal funding under President Obama than under George W. Bush. This is because they pretend to be legitimate, non-partisan dispensers of medical care, when their primary purpose is actually to talk women out of terminating their pregnancies, often by giving them false medical information. Critics have called for stricter regulations of the ways in which these places are allowed to misrepresent themselves, while supporters are planning a ridiculous “Babies Go To Congress” campaign to support them.

A great op-ed piece in the Times today describes multiple personal experiences with these centers, experiences that prove they’re pretty much useless to women whether they intend to terminate their pregnancies or not. First, writer Katie Stack describes the experience she had when she went to a local clinic called “Aid to Women” for medical advice in advance of her appointment at Planned Parenthood:

Though the volunteers wore scrubs, none of them were medical professionals. They insisted on calling my pregnancy my “baby” and my “child.” The intake questions included, “What is your relationship to Jesus Christ?”

The “counseling” that I received included the following: I was cautioned that abortions caused breast cancer, even though the National Cancer Institute has found serious flaws in all research that suggests so. I was warned that I would inevitably suffer from post-abortion stress syndrome, even though the American Psychological Association says there is no evidence of increased mental health problems among women who have an abortion in the first trimester. I was told that I would not hear this information from doctors, because doctors make money performing abortions and would lie about the procedure’s risks.

Of course, Stack was too educated on the topic to be fooled by any of this, but she says she can see how these places could further confuse vulnerable women who are trying to make a well-informed decision.

Furthermore, when her younger sister went to one such clinic for advice on her pregnancy, which she intended to keep, they weren’t very helpful to her, either:

My sister fully intended to raise her own son, who is now 2, but when she was pregnant and went to a center for advice, all she got was a lecture about the joys of adoption and a pamphlet on eternal salvation. She had to turn to Planned Parenthood to receive any actual prenatal health care or referrals.

If these places are going to be allowed to keep spreading religious dogma and false information, I think it’s only reasonable that they should be forced to identify themselves as what they really are: adoption information centers, with a side of religious propaganda. If it’s a crime to impersonate a police officer, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be a crime to impersonate an actual medical provider, either explicitly or implicitly.

(Via The New York Times)