By: Erica Hadley

Published On: May 17, 2024

More than 2,500 crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) operate in the United States, outnumbering abortion clinics by an average of 3 to 1.[1] In some states, CPCs outnumber abortion providers by a ratio as high as 15 to 1.[2] Although some CPCs provide free services and counseling to pregnant persons, many utilize deceptive tactics and misinformation to prevent individuals from accessing reproductive healthcare and time-sensitive abortion services in favor of promoting adoption or delivering and raising the fetus.[3] While presenting themselves as providers of comprehensive healthcare, CPCs engage in deceptive tactics such as making false claims about reproductive health care and providers, disseminating misleading and stigmatizing information about the risks of abortion and contraception, and implying that their deceptive claims are supported by legitimate medical sources.[4]

CPC deception tactics often include trying to confuse individuals seeking abortion care by setting up fake clinics next door to legitimate reproductive healthcare clinics, in addition to creating misleading and targeting advertisements online.[5] However, the deceptive practices of CPCs don’t end once inside the clinic.[6] For example, numerous stories have been recounted of CPC’s underestimating the dates of pregnancies, presumably to delay pregnant persons past the point when abortion is available in their county or state.[7]

In one case, Jane Doe filled a class action lawsuit against a CPC in Massachusetts that advertised itself as a medical clinic.[8] Although the clinic told Doe that her pregnancy was viable and her paperwork said that a medical doctor had provided her care, the nurse who performed the ultrasounds failed to diagnose a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.[9] Months later, Doe received a life-saving emergency surgery that required doctors to remove one of her fallopian tubes.[10] Doe filed a lawsuit against the clinic under the Massachusetts Unfair and Deceptive Business Practices Act.[11]

The approach that Jane Doe used to file suit in Massachusetts must be more actively pursued in order to curb CPC deception. While most states have similar unfair or deceptive practice statutes, they are seldom applied to hold CPCs accountable. Given the typical CPC business model, regardless of how each state’s respective statute is drafted, some aspect of CPC conduct is bound to satisfy the unfair or deceptive element of these statutes.[12]

At the state level, legislators and litigators need to work together to ensure that consumer protection laws protect pregnant persons from CPC deception by creating favorable case law and amending or enacting laws as needed. In Illinois, the state attorney general passed the Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act, which allowed the state to levy fines up to $50,000 on centers that aimed to dissuade pregnant persons from considering abortion care through deceptive information and practices.[13] However, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates filed suit, alleging that the law infringes on their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to protected speech and religious freedom.[14] The federal judge granted a preliminary injunction in favor of CPCs, preventing the law from going into effect.[15]

At the federal level, Congress must pursue legislative initiatives that address CPC deception. In 2022, Representative Carolyn Maloney introduced the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act, or the SAD Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives. [16] The bill acknowledged the deception in CPC practices and proposed prohibiting advertisments from using deceptive or misleading statements related to abortion services.[17] While the SAD Act would not protect pregnant persons from the deception that occurs inside CPCs, the bill would significantly aid pregnant persons who are searching for legitimate and informative reproductive healthcare.[18]

The fight against CPC deception has implications beyond the fight for reproductive rights. Most notably, consumer protection laws have been similarly applied to protect LGBTQ+ groups. One landmark ruling found that conversion therapy violated consumer fraud law, ordering damages for former clients who suffered psychological damage and considerable financial loss as a result of fraudulent conversion therapy programs.[19] Further, there has been speculation about whether conservative groups will use the CPC model to attack transgender people.[20] With the current lack of repurcussions for CPC deception, it is uncertain whether anything would prevent conservative groups from creating fake gender-affirming care clinics, or advertising free but fraudulent evaluation for surgery letters in the way that CPCs offer ‘free ultrasounds.’[21] Given the far-reaching implications of CPC deceptive and fraudulent practices, it is essential for action to be taken to hold Crisis Pregnancy Centers accountable for the harm that they cause.


[1] See Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation (SAD) Act, H.R. 8210, 117th Cong. § 2 (4-5) (2022).

[2] See Rebecca Feinberg & Danielle Pacia, Crisis Pregnancy Centers: An Inherently Unjust Limitation to Reproductive Rights, 48 Am. J.L. & Med. 275, 275 (2022).

[3] See Adam Edelman, Democrats Eye a New Approach to Rein in Crisis Pregnancy Centers, NBC News (May 18, 2023),; H.R. 8210, 117th Cong. § 2 (8).

[4] See H.R. 8210, 117th Cong. § 2 (6-7).

[5] See Ally Dickson, How Fake Abortion Clinics Target People Seeking Abortion Care in Person and Online, Ms. Magazine (Aug. 8, 2023),

[6] See id.

[7] See Kate Vlach, What’s Old Is New Again: How State Attorneys General Can Reinvigorate UDAP Enforcement to Combat Crisis Pregnancy Center Deception, 39 Colum. J. Gender & L. 140, 148 (2020).

[8] See Dickson, supra note 5.

[9] See Press Release, Reproductive Equity Now, New Lawsuit Alleges Actions of ‘Crisis Pregnancy Center’ Resulted in Missed Diagnosis of a Life-Threatening Ectopic Pregnancy (on file with author).

[10] See id.

[11] See id.

[12] See Valch, supra note 7, at 154-55.

[13] See Edward Robert McClelland, Pro-life or Pro-lie?, Chicago Magazine (Nov. 6, 2023)

[14] See id.; Nat’l Inst. of Fam. & Life Advocs. v. Raoul, No. 23 CV 50279, 2023 WL 5367336 at *1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 4, 2023).

[15] See Raoul, 2023 WL 5367336 at *1; Hannah Meisel, Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Illinois Law Subjecting ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’ to Civil Liability, Capitol News Illinois (Aug. 4, 2023),

[16] See H.R. 8210, 117th Cong. § 1.

[17] See id. at § 3 (a)(1).

[18] See generally id.

[19] See Ed Pilkington, Landmark Ruling Finds ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ Broke Consumer Fraud Law, The Guardian (June 25, 2015)

[20] See Garnet Henderson, Will Conservatives Use the ‘Crisis Pregnancy Center’ Playbook to Attack Trans People?, Rewire News Group, (Oct. 3, 2023)

[21] See id.

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