March 8th, 2023
The BC Humanist Association has teamed up with Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada to publish a study that examines all of the websites of “crisis pregnancy centres” in Canada. The study expands upon ARCC’s 2016 study, and shows that most websites continue to present misinformation on abortion or sexual health issues, and/or fail to disclose their anti-choice or religious agenda or that they are not medical clinics. (Please see the link to ARCC's website for a version of this page in mandarin).
Authors: Joyce Arthur, Annaliese Downey, Angela Katelieva, Olivia Jensen, Katelyn Mitchell, Teale N. Phelps Bondaroff. Special thanks also go to our team of 9 volunteers listed on page 5.
Citation for study:
Arthur J, and Downey A, Katelieva A, Jensen O, Mitchell K, Phelps Bondaroff TN. March 2023. Examining the Websites of Anti-Choice “Crisis Pregnancy Centres”. Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and BC Humanist Association. (www.arcc-cdac.ca/media/crisis-pregnancy-centres/cpc-website-review-2023.pdf)
Anti-choice agencies that claim to help pregnant people often present themselves as unbiased medical clinics or counselling centres. The ostensible goal of these “crisis pregnancy centres” (CPCs) is to provide pregnant people with non-judgemental information on all their options when faced with an unintended pregnancy. However, CPCs are not medical facilities, most are Christian ministries, they generally will not refer clients for abortion or contraception, and many promote misinformation, in particular the existence of “post-abortion distress,” which is not a medically recognized condition. These factors contribute to abortion stigma and interfere with people’s ability to make a fully informed decision about an unwanted pregnancy. Moreover, CPCs in Canada are not currently regulated.
The aim of this study was to determine the presence of any deception or misinformation on the websites of Canadian CPCs, and compare the results to a similar study conducted by Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) in 2016 to better understand changes over time. The current study is by ARCC and BC Humanist Association (BCHA).
We identified 146 CPCs across Canada, as of spring 2022. Of those, 143 had websites. Given that some CPCs shared the same websites, 110 unique websites were reviewed to determine what the centres were sharing online, and to identify any misinformation or attempts at deception. The findings reveal that a large majority of the 143 CPCs do one, or both, of the following on their websites: 1) spread misleading or inaccurate information about abortion, contraception, sexually-transmitted infections, sexual activity, or adoption; or 2) present themselves deceptively, doing such things as not disclosing that they do not refer for abortion, or hiding their religious stance from prospective clients.
Given the results of this study, we recommend that CPCs in Canada be regulated in order to better public health and respect the rights of patients seeking healthcare. We specifically recommend that CPCs: be required to disclose their anti-choice and religious stance, be stopped from providing unregulated medical services such as ultrasounds, not be publicly funded, be removed from referral lists used by legitimate medical facilities, have their charitable tax status revoked for those that are charities, be stopped from teaching sex education in public schools, and not be allowed to place misleading advertising in public.
Our evaluation of the 110 websites linked with 143 CPCs found that:
- 38.5% (55) did not have disclaimers that they do not assist with, or refer, for abortion or contraception.
- 5.6% (8) claimed a link between abortion and breast cancer, which has been scientifically rejected.
- 18.9% (27) cited other medical risks of abortion that were exaggerated or not scientifically supported.
- 75.5% (108) mentioned negative psychological consequences, primarily in the context of “post-abortion distress”, which is not medically recognized.
- 11.2% (16) claimed, or implied, that artificial contraception is unreliable.
- 13.9% (20) advocated for abstinence or discourage sex outside of marriage.
- 81.8% (117) emphasized adoption or presented adoption as a better option to abortion.
- 74.1% (106) showed evidence of a religious outlook or agenda, most openly, but 15% (16 of 106) were not transparent and upfront about their religious motivations or affiliations.
- 42.7% (61) did not have disclaimers that they were not a medical facility and/or that clients should see a doctor for medical services.
- 9.8% (14) indicated that they offered medical services, including ultrasounds or STI testing.
- 1.4% (2) mentioned, promoted or offered “abortion pill reversal,” an unproven and potentially dangerous medical regimen.
- 92.3% (132) offered programs or services not directly related to abortion, such as prenatal and parenting classes, or other types of workshops.
- 16.8% (24) encouraged, or required, clients to participate in programs in order to access resources such as baby clothes.
- At least 39.9% (57) of the CPCs offered sexual education classes to schools according to their websites or other sources. Another 8.4% (12) offered some type of community or youth education but did not specify if this was directed at schools.
- 93.7% (134) of the 146 CPCs we identified had charitable tax status.