By Kathy Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project
On July 1, 2013, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation (NPCVF) released Crisis Pregnancy Centers Revealed, Part II: An Investigative Update on Virginia CPCs. From June 2012 to June 2013, NPCVF engaged in a year-long investigation of crisis pregnancy centers throughout Virginia. Crisis Pregnancy Centers Revealed, Part II is a follow-up to NPCVF’s 2009 CPC investigation and report.  It provides updated information about the harm CPCs pose to women in Virginia. Over the next three weeks on this blog, we will highlight features of the report, discussing NPCVF’s investigative findings, recent concerning trends in other states regarding the funding of CPCs, the connection between CPCs and Virginia’s forced ultrasound law, and policy recommendations to combat the harms of CPCs.
As we have highlighted in this blog series, Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are a tool used by anti-choice activists to undermine women’s fundamental reproductive rights.  As NPCVF describes in their report, CPCs are a reaction to the anti-choice movement’s failure to shut down legitimate reproductive health care centers.
To stop the deceptive practices of CPCs, we must educate the public about what CPCs actually do, including how they disproportionately harm the reproductive health of young women, women living in rural locations, low-income women, and women of color. When Virginians are fully informed about the true nature of CPCs, and have access to comprehensive, unbiased reproductive health care, CPCs will cease to be able to prey on Virginia women.
Educating the public about the deceptive practices of CPCs can take many forms, including sharing NPCVF’s report with your family, friends, and community members. In addition, individuals can share their stories as a powerful way to speak out against CPCs. Talking to friends and policymakers in your community can bring about real change and can inspire others to speak out.
Expanding and protecting abortion and contraceptive access, especially for young women, women living in rural areas, low-income women, and women of color can take many forms. In order to strengthen confidential reproductive health care for young women, we must challenge policies that interfere with the rights of sexually active minors to obtain accurate public health information and access to comprehensive reproductive health care, oppose narrow and overly-restrictive interpretations of minors’ rights to confidential reproductive health care, and increase awareness of minors’ rights to receive confidential reproductive and other health care, such as by conducting workshops for professionals who work with youth, including health care workers and school personnel.
Young women, women living in rural areas, low-income women, and women of color are particularly affected by the twenty-four hour waiting period within Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law and are also most affected by the closure of women’s health care centers under new Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP), which are new rules for health centers providing abortion care in Virginia that are designed to shut down these centers. We must advocate for the repeal of the mandatory ultrasound law and TRAP as well as prevent the passage of new laws that would restrict or bar access to abortion and contraceptive services. Lastly, we must advocate for pro-active measures that increase the availability of contraception, such as laws requiring hospital emergency rooms to offer access to and counseling on emergency contraception.
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