State Department of Public Health warns anti-abortion centers against using deceptive tactics

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is warning that it will not tolerate any anti-abortion centers using deceptive practices that infringe on people’s reproductive healthcare access.

The facilities, known as “crisis pregnancy centers,” advertise free services and counseling for women with unplanned pregnancies. But in wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade in 2022, abortion rights advocates have increasingly accused the centers of using misleading advertising tactics to steer people away from abortion.

DPH says there are nearly 30 anti-abortion centers operating in Massachusetts. After receiving complaints about some of the centers, the department wants to ensure the facilities are operating transparently. If they’re not, they could lose their clinical licenses and face state investigation.

DPH sent a memo this week to all licensed Massachusetts physicians and clinics, including anti-abortion centers, reminding them of their obligations under state law.

“There are consequences to the use of deceptive tactics in the state of Massachusetts,” DPH Commissioner Robert Goldstein told GBH News. “We at the Department of Public Health have a responsibility to promote and protect health, to ensure high quality care for people across the Commonwealth.”

According to the abortion rights organization Reproductive Equity Now, the centers outnumber abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood more than 2 to 1 in Massachusetts. Many of the centers are affiliated with national advocacy or religious organizations that provide funding and support to promote an anti-abortion agenda.

DPH says many of the anti-abortion facilities deceptively present themselves as full-service reproductive health care clinics but do not provide abortion care, referrals, contraception or other reproductive health care services. Other centers do provide abortion services but may not be in compliance with state requirements of medical care.

In both cases, DPH stressed the state has the authority to investigate wrongdoing. The department will collaborate with the state attorney general’s Reproductive Justice Unit, which can pursue civil or criminal charges against facilities that deceive people seeking comprehensive reproductive healthcare services.

“Anti-abortion centers pose a serious threat to pregnant people seeking unbiased reproductive health care in Massachusetts,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, president of Reproductive Equity Now. “I do really want to thank Commissioner Goldstein for his bold leadership and really look forward to continuing our work together to combat these centers.”

In response to DPH’s warning, advocates and leaders of anti-abortion centers called the accusations misinformation and said the facilities help thousands of people around Massachusetts every year.

“Pregnancy resource centers offer women choices,” said Myrna Maloney Flynn, president and CEO of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. “Pregnancy resource centers will communicate to women all of their options when they are faced with an unplanned pregnancy.”


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