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Don’t Be Fooled by Fake Clinics

November 2012

By Joyce Arthur, Executive Director, Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada,

It’s happening again. Last Christmas, a Christian organization in Kamloops was raising money in government liquor stores by pretending to be a secular agency. Now this organization has been selected as one of five charitable beneficiaries for this year’s Christmas Cheer Fund by the Kamloops Daily News.

Many people would be loathe to support the Pregnancy Care Centre of Kamloops if they knew what it really represented. You would certainly never suspect anything amiss by looking at their website. The centre’s mission statement is to “empower those who are faced with an unplanned pregnancy through education, resources and support.” Among other laudable-sounding services, the centre says that it provides “practical support and non-judgmental care” as well as “education on all pregnancy options”, and “referrals for health, housing and community support.”

But this carefully cultivated public persona deliberately hides the true nature and purpose of the centre. Far from being an unbiased secular organization, the Pregnancy Care Centre of Kamloops is actually a Christian ministry with a goal to dissuade women from having abortions—and then convert them if possible.

Almost 200 of these fake clinics—so-called “crisis pregnancy centres”—exist across Canada, and over 4,000 in the U.S. The Canadian organization Birthright was the pioneer for North America. At least 70 centres in Canada are Birthrights, while another 70 are affiliates of the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS), an umbrella group that “encourages and equips” their centres.

One of the primary tools that CAPSS provides to its affiliates for their work is an “Evangelism Manual.” As an affiliate of CAPSS, staff and volunteers at the Kamloops Pregnancy Care Centre must maintain “faithful adherence” to several statements and codes, none of which are available to the public (we obtained a copy of them several years ago):

Fake clinics like the Kamloops centre try to give the impression they are secular medical clinics run by professionals, when most are staffed solely by volunteers with no credentials or professional training in counselling. Alarmingly, the vast majority of fake clinics provide misinformation or withhold information from women.

Although they claim to help with all options, fake clinics will never refer a woman for an abortion—even in the most desperate circumstances, such as a lethal defect in the foetus or in cases of rape. CAPSS trains their volunteer counselors to use methods and language designed to horrify and confuse women considering abortion, which can induce guilt, anxiety, and emotional trauma. For example, they may subject women to scare-mongering misinformation about abortion that exaggerates its risks, such as warnings that abortion leads to scarring, breast cancer, future miscarriage, post-traumatic stress disorder, or infertility—all false scientifically.

Fake clinics will never refer a woman for contraception, either. They generally counsel against using birth control and even refuse to provide information on it, except for false claims such as stating that condoms don’t protect against sexually-transmitted infections, and that hormonal methods of birth control methods are "abortifacients."

The public, and especially the women of Kamloops, deserve to know what this Pregnancy Care Centre stands for. Although it may provide many helpful services to women in need, it should not be duping people out of their money by pretending to be secular and unbiased. It should also be openly disclosing its anti-abortion agenda so that women considering abortion are not confused and misinformed. It’s fair to ask whether the Kamloops Daily News has also been deceived by the centre’s benevolent public face. (Commenters on the newspaper’s website have since pointed out the deceptive, anti-abortion, and religious nature of this centre.) Since the centre is also a registered charity, perhaps even Canada Revenue has been bamboozled—it gave the Pregnancy Care Centre of Kamloops charitable status as a “Welfare Organization.” That is highly inappropriate for an agency that gives out free diapers and baby toys but really wants to stop women from having abortions.