The recently resolved Masterpiece Cakeshop case
isn't the only matter before the current U.S. Supreme Court that could have a major impact on Colorado. A ruling could come as early as today in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, a controversy out of California that concerns what pro-choice activists have dubbed "fake clinics" — facilities that seem to be full-service women's health centers but are actually fronts for religious organizations that push an anti-abortion agenda.
According to a document provided by NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, there are more than seventy such fake clinics in Colorado, among them 29 operated by NIFLA in more than a dozen cities, including Denver, that we've listed below. And despite assertions that the information provided by such facilities ranges from slanted to downright inaccurate, they could be in for a windfall. A Department of Health and Human Services proposal that critics refer to as the Trump abortion gag rule
calls for what are officially known as crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, to receive Title X federal funding.
Dr. Rebecca Cohen, a practicing OB/GYN and abortion provider in the Denver area, sees that as an absolutely terrible idea. "If these clinics are able to proliferate, it gives more weight to the false ideology behind abortion and less on the safety of the procedures we provide," she says.
The original lawsuit in NIFLA v. Becerra is also linked at the bottom of this post. When it was filed in 2015, it was known as NIFLA v. Kamala Harris, because the latter, now a United States senator, was then California's attorney general.
about the case on NIFLA's website reads: "In 2015, California passed AB 775, the so-called 'Reproductive FACT Act.' This law mandates that medical pro-life pregnancy centers provide written or digital information to their patients — such as a sign in the waiting room — on how to obtain a state-funded abortion. This means that nonprofit pro-life medical clinics as well as their staff and volunteers are being forced to violate their consciences — an outright violation of their First Amendment rights."
Cohen's description of the dispute could hardly differ more. "What California has stated is clinics that provide any form of prenatal care or advice need to either provide unbiased information, including information about abortion services, or state that they're not providing medical care."
A Caring Pregnancy Center in Pueblo is funded by NIFLA.
CPCs "have a medical facade," she continues. "They're often located near a Planned Parenthood or other clinic that actually offers pregnancy options, and it may be the first thing that comes up in a search for unplanned pregnancies. They bill themselves as clinics and have people who look like medical providers who may do ultrasounds or things like that. But they're typically unlicensed and don't offer the complete range of pregnancy counsel. And they may say that abortion is dangerous for physical or mental health, which is not true, or they may state that abortion isn't a safe or available option for a specific woman even when it is."
An example offered by Cohen: "I often hear about women who've been told that they miscarried — that their pregnancy has ended on its own and they don't need to consult or check with anyone else. But then they tell them they're too far along to get an abortion. Or they'll tell someone they're pregnant when they're not, and then, in a followup, they'll say, 'Your thoughts about not wanting a pregnancy caused you to have a miscarriage.'"
Pregnant teens, in particular, "are extremely vulnerable to misinformation or complete falsehoods," Cohen maintains, "and these centers are not up front about who's funding them, either. It's usually a religious-type organization, but that's not information they give out, and they don't really bring it up when someone comes in and asks about what services they provide."
Without knowing that "they're getting information from a biased or untrustworthy source, women may not have the resources to know that the things they're being told aren't true," she argues. "And these are also unlicensed or unqualified people providing medical advice. Some pregnancies, like tubal pregnancies, can be high-risk, and that can be dangerous for a woman who goes to these clinics."
California isn't calling for fake clinics to be closed, Cohen emphasizes: "They're just mandating transparency. Basically, they're saying you have to pick a side: Either you're giving medical advice that has to be accurate, or you're not — and if you're not, you can't give medical advice."
In Cohen's opinion, the proliferation of fake clinics is one more way "the anti-choice side keeps trying to chip away at a woman's right to choose. We're facing a lot of anti-choice action, and in states like Texas, providers are required by law to state things that aren't true in terms of medical and physical health — things about fetal pain and the medical consequences of abortion, which is extremely safe. And in Colorado, they're still trying."
The proliferation of fake clinics in Colorado isn't widely known, Cohen believes. "I talk to my colleagues who practice OB/GYN, and it's even a surprise to some of them. It's scary that there's so much misinformation that flies under the radar, and it's important to know that this isn't just something that's happening in the deep South or only in rural areas. This is something people may encounter here, and they need to be aware that not all clinics are giving out accurate information."
Click to read a list of Colorado clinics NARAL considers fake
, as well as NIFLA v. Kamala Harris, et al.
Continue to see the names and addresses of Colorado CPCs operated by NIFLA.