Report: Columbus crisis pregnancy centers, funded by the state … – The Highland County Press

A study commissioned by the Columbus City Council and conducted by a pro-choice group showed crisis pregnancy centers greatly outnumber abortion and reproductive health clinics in the city, but don’t offer the same health services.
The study was a follow-up to research done by Pro-Choice Ohio in 2013, but this time the investigation was contracted by the city of Columbus in July 2022 and extended in 2023, according to the group.
Crisis pregnancy centers have been heavily criticized by reproductive health advocates, medical professionals and Democratic state legislators, while the state has worked to fund the facilities, mainly through the Ohio Parenting and Pregnancy program.
Gov. Mike DeWine, a vocal opponent of abortion, has supported clinics considered crisis pregnancy centers, and the state has moved federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant monies to help facilities who specifically don’t educator or counsel on abortion services.
DeWine signed an executive order in 2022 adding more than $1.7 million to the Parenting and Pregnancy Program.
The executive order said one of the purposes of the state’s TANF program is to “prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies,” and another was to “encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.”
The Parenting and Pregnancy program was being used to “promote childbirth, parenting and alternatives to abortion,” according to the executive order.
Pro-Choice Ohio cited research by the Ohio Policy Evaluation Network that concluded nearly one in seven women in Ohio has been to at least one crisis pregnancy center, and attendance at centers is “higher among non-Hispanic Black women and those with lower socioeconomic status.”
Those that conducted the 2023 study went to “drop-in appointments” at nine facilities in the city, acting as clients inquiring about different services for pregnancy, and whether or not abortion was discussed.
Researchers also made calls to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to survey them on different client scenarios and services.
“One center directly mentioned abortion counseling, and none of the facilities said that the investigator would meet with a doctor or nurse,” the report stated. “When asked what the appointment would involve, all three said a pregnancy test and ultrasound, two said abortion counseling, one said counseling on abortion risks and one told the investigator they would need a photo ID to be seen.”
Some websites were reviewed for accuracy, finding information about the morning-after pill, called Plan B. “Does it kill a baby” was followed by “sometimes” on the Alpha Pregnancy Help Center, which also listed their information source as “Christian Life Resources.”
“Additionally, many of the inaccurate claims that we found were being told to clients about abortion inside these centers are also on the APHC website, including increased risk of infertility, increased risk of suicide and other mental health issues and the increased risk of breast cancer,” the report stated.
The report found various differences between the investigations done in 2013 and 2023 interactions at facilities. Those that went to facilities as part of the report said crisis pregnancy centers “were much less likely to even have a conversation with our investigators unless they took a pregnancy test and it came back positive.”
In 2013, researchers said ultrasound was “much more prevalent in the visits.”
This year’s “clients” also said the CPCs “did not use fetal models or pictures of fetal development in the conversations around gestational age,” and only two of the eight centers used “visual materials about fetal development.”
“Instead of showing people pictures and models, they want them to have an ultrasound to (in their words) ‘reveal the life within,’” the report stated. “In these situations, ultrasounds are a tool for manipulation, not health care.”
The most recent report said those who went to the centers “felt pressure to choose to continue their pregnancy from CPC personnel at three facilities, and no pressure at the remaining five facilities.”
While only one case was reported in which the investigator felt the CPC staff were “openly hostile” to the indication that abortion was being considered, the study found “a variety of tactics” were used to “persuade the investigators to not have an abortion.”
“But these tactics have also shifted somewhat from the 2013 study,” the study stated. “Talking about the physical, emotional and relationship tolls that abortion would have on the individual was still the top tactic, but in a more subtle approach, redirecting the client was equally used.”
“The most commonly discussed topics during the conversation about abortion were consistent with our previous research, medical complications of abortion and mental health issues following an abortion,” according to researchers.
On the topic abortion “reversal,” a controversial method supported by anti-abortion groups, but debunked by medical professionals, One facility claimed they provided “reversal” at their location, which included an ultrasound, doctor visit and prescription for the medication.
Abortion “reversal” typically refers to taking one of the two-pill regimen used in medication abortion, but not taking the second, but the claim that it reverses and abortion is unproven. A medical study was suspended in July 2019 after women trying the method were hospitalized with severe symptoms.
But, as recently as March 2022, Ohio legislatures were attempting to force the Ohio Department of Health to distribute information on abortion “reversal” at the same time that pregnant patients are given the two-pill medication abortion regimen.
One facility gave a referral to an abortion “reversal” hotline, while another referred the investigator who called to the Columbus Medical Association’s hotline that helps with prenatal care.
Still, those that went to or inquired about facility services found a similar amount of “misinformation presented by staff” as they did during the 2013 study, and it wasn’t entirely surrounding abortion.
“At these centers, the only type of birth control they would discuss positively was periodic abstinence (aka ‘natural family planning’),” the report stated. “When other types of birth control were discussed, failure rates were emphasized, or, as one person at a CPC said, they don’t discuss birth control because birth control ’causes an abortion.’”
Using the facility experiences, phone surveys and studies of public records and data, researchers said CPCs showed “the gross inadequacies of the services provided by these centers and how wrong the priorities of these centers are when it come to using the public funds they receive.”
“The TANF program is supposed to be one of the few programs where lower income families can receive funds to buy the things that they need,” the report concluded. “But instead, our Ohio legislature is forcing people to go to these facilities and face shame and stigma in order to get the help they need.”
Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.


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