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.
The summary 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."
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."
Crisis pregnancy centers affiliated with the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA)
Alternatives Pregnancy Center East
14221 East 4th Avenue, Building 2
Aurora, CO 80011
Open Arms Pregnancy Center
137 Longs Peak Street
Brighton, CO 80601
Buena Vista Pregnancy Center
28350 County Road 317
Buena Vista, CO 81211
Eastern Plains Women's Resource Center
228 West Front Street
Byers, CO 80103
Colorado Springs Pregnancy Center (Central)
3700 Gallery Road
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Colorado Springs Pregnancy Center (Westside)
3925 Centennial Boulevard
Colorado Springs, CO 80907
Pregnancy Resource Center
523 Dodge Street
Delta, CO 81416
Alternatives Pregnancy Center (East Metro)
1440 Blake Street, #200
Denver, CO 80202
Alternatives Pregnancy Center Mobile Clinic
777 Lawrence Street
Denver, CO 80204
1182 Graves Avenue
Estes Park, CO 80517
1212 South College Avenue
Fort Collins, CO 80524
Pregnancy Resource Center
1131 Grand Avenue
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
The Resource Center
822 14th Street
Greeley, CO 80631
Lighthouse Pregnancy Center
209 Elizabeth Street
Gunnison, CO 81230
Arkansas Valley Pregnancy Center
118 West 4th Street
La Junta, CO 81050
Alternatives Pregnancy Center (West Metro)
3110 South Wadsworth Boulevard, Suite 200
Lakewood, CO 80226
Alternatives Pregnancy Center (South Metro)
2 West Dry Creek Circle, Suite 180
Littleton, CO 80120
20 Mountain View Avenue
Longmont, CO 80501
902 Redwood Drive
Loveland, CO 80538
Life Choices Family Resource Center
200 South 4th Street
Montrose, CO 81401
Aspire Medical Services and Education (formerly THRIVE)
602 South 8th Street
Pagosa Springs, CO 81147
Alternatives Pregnancy Center
19029 East Plaza Drive, Suite 255
Parker, CO 80134
A Caring Pregnancy Center
500 Colorado Avenue
Pueblo, CO 81004
Pregnancy Resource Center
215 East 3rd Street
Salida, CO 81201
Lighthouse Pregnancy Resources
417 Cliff Street
Silver Cliff, CO 81252
Selah, aka Steamboat Springs Pregnancy Resource Center
1560 Pine Grove Road, Suite D
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
North Metro Life Choices Pregnancy Center
8774 Yates Drive, Suite 200
Westminster, CO 80031
228 South Baldwin Street
Woodland Park, CO 80863
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.