Va. Crisis Pregnancy Centers Using Ultrasound Law To Promote Antiabortion Agenda, NARAL Report Finds

July 3, 2013 — Virginia crisis pregnancy centers are promoting their opposition to abortion rights by exploiting a provision in a state law (HB 462) aimed at ensuring low-income women can access no-cost ultrasounds, according to a NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia report, the AP/Washington Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 7/1).

Under a 2012 law, Virginia requires women to receive an ultrasound before having an abortion, with exceptions in cases of rape and incest if the victim has reported the crime to law enforcement. The law also requires physicians to offer women an opportunity to view the ultrasound and listen to the fetal heartbeat (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/5/12).

In addition, the law requires abortion clinics to provide women with a list of places where they can obtain an ultrasound at no cost. Legislators who support abortion rights insisted on adding the provision to ensure that the cost of an ultrasound would not further impede low-income women's access to abortion.

After the law passed, the Virginia Department of Health posed six questions to all CPCs and abortion clinics in the state to determine which ones were qualified and willing to offer no-cost ultrasounds. "If they met the six criteria, they could be included," said Lauri Kalanges, acting office director for the department's Family Health Services.

The final list includes 18 CPCs and no abortion clinics. NARAL said the abortion clinics could not afford to provide no-cost ultrasounds.

Report Alleges CPCs Provide Misinformation, Refuse To Transfer Ultrasound Results

NARAL Virginia investigated 56 CPCs in the state via 77 telephone calls and 10 in-person visits.

According to the report, some CPCs are intimidating or shaming women who come in for ultrasounds in order to change their minds about seeking an abortion. Some centers -- including Little Life Center and Blue Ridge Women's Health Center -- have refused to turn over ultrasound results to women who planned to take them to abortion clinics.

In addition, the report found that 71% of the CPCs investigated "shared some degree of medically erroneous information" with women, including claims that abortion can lead to long-term psychological problems, eating disorders, and alcohol and drug misuse, as well as breast cancer, infertility and later pregnancy complications.

NARAL also stated in the report that the state health department cannot respond to complaints filed against CPCs because it lacks jurisdiction over the centers, which Kalanges confirmed.

"It is deeply troubling that an official governmental agency would, by referring women to these facilities, confer legitimacy on their pervasive use of deception, emotional manipulation, and medical misinformation," the report states.

Little Life Center Executive Director Carol Slaughter and Blue Ridge CEO Phil Holsinger both denied the allegations that they refused to submit ultrasounds to abortion clinics (AP/Washington Post, 7/1).