General Articles

Congress Takes Aim at Crisis Pregnancy Centers

The Washington Post recently published an article stating that “millions of dollars in taxpayer funds have flowed to groups that support President Bush’s agenda on abortion and other social issues.”1 In addition to highlighting other programs benefiting from this money, such as faith-based initiatives and abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, this article directed attention to federal dollars being dispersed to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). In response, on March 30, 2006, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), along with eleven co-sponsors, introduced the “Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services Act” (SDAWS). If passed, House Resolution 5052 would “direct the Federal Trade Commission to prescribe rules prohibiting fraudulent advertising of abortion services.”2

CPCs often use deceptive practices to disguise themselves as mainstream reproductive health care clinics, listing themselves in phone directories under the headings “abortion,” “abortion alternatives,” “abortion services,” “family planning information centers,” or “women’s organizations.”3 CPCs falsely advertise that they offer abortion services and counseling when in actuality these centers are created to intimidate and deter women from exercising their right to choose.4

“When women are making a health decision, they should never be subject to deceit and trickery,” said Maloney. “Some of these crisis pregnancy centers should be called ‘Counterfeit Pregnancy Centers.’ They have the right to exist, but they shouldn’t have the right to deceive in order to advance their particular beliefs.”5

A driving force behind CPCs’ ability to extend misleading advertising to the public is the large amount of federal dollars being granted to them under the Bush Administration. Many CPCs have received federal grants that doubled or tripled their annual budget, allowing them to hire more staff and expand both their programming and advertising campaigns.6 According to Washington Post’s review of federal records, CPCs and antiabortion centers have received well over $60 million in grants for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and other programs.7 (For more information on CPCs that receive federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funds, see SIECUS’s State Profiles at http://www.siecus.local/policy/states/index.html.)

“The deceptive practices of CPCs extend far beyond what happens inside their buildings,” says Rebecca Fox, assistant director for public policy at SIECUS. “A wealth of federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding allows CPCs to continue their trickery in our nation’s classrooms.”

Under SDAWS, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would establish regulations prohibiting CPCs from using deceptive and intimidating practices in order to mislead and prevent women from accessing the full range of reproductive health care services.8 The FTC would be empowered to penalize and take corrective action against those centers that falsely advertise abortion and family planning services when these services are not actually offered.9

In introducing H.R. 5052 on March 30, 2006, Maloney was supported by representatives of several leading pro-choice organizations who applauded her initiative to support honest and medically accurate information for women.10 “Deception and lies don’t help women make informed choices,” said Joan Malin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City. “Too often women are given incomplete or even inaccurate information that leaves them misinformed, confused and afraid. I applaud these lawmakers for introducing federal legislation that would guarantee critical health care information is given to women so they can make informed decisions about their health,” Malin continued.11

Maloney warned of the low likelihood of this legislation moving quickly through Congress, due to the majority of anti-choice legislators that currently controls Congressional decisions. Nonetheless, she hoped that the introduction of this bill will raise public awareness of an issue that needs to be addressed and corrected so that women seeking to make fully informed decisions will not be tricked into receiving biased and inaccurate information.12


  1. Thomas B. Edsall, “Grants Flow to Bush Allies on Social Issues,” Washington Post, 22 March 2006, A01.
  2. H.R. 5052 (27 March 2006), accessed 10 April 2006, <>.
  3. NARAL Pro-Choice America, “NARAL Pro-Choice America Endorses ‘Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services Act,’” Press Release published 30 March 2006, accessed 6 April 2006, <>.
  4. Ibid.
  5. United States House of Representatives, “Seeking a Crackdown on Deceit by Radical Anti-Choice Centers,” Press Release published 30 March 2006, accessed 6 April 2006, <>.
  6. Edsall.
  7. Ibid.
  8. NARAL Pro-Choice America.
  9. US House of Representatives.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Allison Stevens, “Maloney Calls for Truth in Clinic Advertising”, Women’s eNews, 31 March 2006, accessed 10 April 2006, <>.