Reproductive health advocates see a ‘major problem’ with anti-abortion centers post-Roe

According to Equity Forward, anti-abortion centers in more than a dozen states, including Pennsylvania, have been allocated more than $89 million in public funds

By: - December 7, 2022 5:09 pm
Abortion rights advocates. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images).

(Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images).

Reproductive health advocates are again sounding the alarm on so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), also referred to as anti-abortion centers, that provide non-medical prenatal services, and abortion alternatives to pregnant people.

Ashley Underwood, director of Equity Forward, a reproductive rights watchdog organization, said the clinics are a “major problem” across the country in the post-Roe era. 

Underwood said that rural communities are especially vulnerable to misleading messaging from AACs due to the lack of licensed maternity care facilities, including obstetrics and gynecology, in rural regions of the country. 

“Without direct access to maternity care or OB care, AACs act as a substitute,” Underwood told the Capital-Star, adding that she is concerned AAC clients aren’t being provided accurate information about their reproductive care options. 

A report from the March of Dimes recently found that six of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties — Cameron, Forest, Greene, Juniata, Sullivan, and Wyoming counties —  qualify as maternal health deserts because “there were no hospitals providing obstetric care, no birth centers, no OB/GYN and no certified nurse midwives.” 

A 29-year-old woman from Lewistown, Mifflin County, who asked to remain anonymous for safety concerns, said that in 2019 she and her husband traveled over an hour to Planned Parenthood’s Harrisburg location for abortion care due to the lack of providers near her. 

She said that she and her husband are fortunate to have been able to afford the trip and the procedure, which cost them $500. 

“We’re lucky having dual income, no kids, and my husband has a good job where he has a flexible schedule, but for someone else without the means, it just might not be feasible for them,” she said.

Due to other medical concerns, she does not drive, relying on her husband for transportation. 

State College, which is 30 miles north of Lewistown, would have been a much shorter trip for the couple, but it did not have any facilities providing abortion services at the time.

“I was kind of surprised there was no clinic in State College given that it’s a college town, but they are lucky enough to have a crisis pregnancy center,” she said.

More than 105,000 women between 18-44 years of age live in counties with little or no obstetric care, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Six Pa. counties classify as ‘maternal health deserts,’ new report says


Nationally, the March of Dimes report found that more than 2.2 million women of childbearing age live in maternity care deserts.

Just 17 healthcare facilities in Pennsylvania provide abortion services, 14 of which are Planned Parenthood affiliates compared to the 160 anti-abortion centers across the commonwealth. 

In September, anti-abortion clinics were the subject of state and congressional hearings, where lawmakers questioned how the clinics used patient data, spent funds, and engaged with clients, raising concerns about deceptive practices.

According to Equity Forward, anti-abortion centers in more than a dozen states, including Pennsylvania, have been allocated more than $89 million in public funds.

The commonwealth is one of seven states to supply AACs with monetary support from a combination of state funds and federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds.

AACs in the Keystone State were most recently allocated more than $7.2 million in public funds, including $6,263,000 in state appropriations and $1 million from TANF.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.