Health Care

Mass. launches ad campaign to combat crisis pregnancy center proliferation

It will appear on social media, radio, billboards and transit in English and Spanish.
Portico Crisis Pregnancy Center nurse Cassie Owen hold an ultrasound abdominal probe Jan. 26, 2022, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Massachusetts officials launched a first-in-the-nation ad campaign Monday telling residents that so-called crisis pregnancy centers spread disinformation and mislead pregnant people about their options.

The campaign includes social media-ready videos, graphics and posts in an attempt to raise awareness about the difference between those centers and places one can receive comprehensive reproductive health care. The ads will also appear on radio, billboards and transit in English and Spanish.

“Whether you need pregnancy care or abortion care, avoid anti-abortion clinics,” one ad says. “They may look like medical clinics, but can put your health at risk.”

Crisis pregnancy centers have emerged as a flashpoint in the national battle over abortion rights. They provide counseling and prenatal care from an anti-abortion perspective and are often affiliated with conservative religious groups.

Red states have sent them millions of dollars in taxpayer money. Blue states have sought to impose tighter restrictions on the services and information they provide but have been hampered by legal challenges.

The Massachusetts ad campaign was funded through a $1 million appropriation and created by the state Department of Public Health in collaboration with the Reproductive Equity Now Foundation, a nonprofit focused on educating the public about equitable access to reproductive health care.

“In Massachusetts, we are committed to protecting and expanding access to safe and legal abortion,” Gov. Maura Healey (D) said. “That includes protecting patients from the deceptive and dangerous tactics that anti-abortion centers often use to stop people from accessing comprehensive reproductive services.”

While crisis pregnancy centers have operated in the United States for decades, their numbers have proliferated since the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.

Their reach extends to states that have sought to protect or extend abortion rights. In Massachusetts, for example, anti-abortion centers outnumber comprehensive reproductive health clinics by more than 2 to 1, according to state officials.

Blue states have struggled to rein in crisis pregnancy centers since a 2018 Supreme Court ruling striking down a California law that required crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about affordable abortion and contraception services offered by the state and to disclose that they were not licensed medical clinics.

Recently, blue states, including New York and California, have sued crisis pregnancy centers for promoting unproven procedures they say can reverse the effects of abortion medication. The Massachusetts ad campaign represents a new angle states are taking to limit their influence.

“In Massachusetts we stand firmly for reproductive rights, which includes the right to truthful information when seeking reproductive healthcare,” Senate President Karen Spilka (D) said in a statement.