Gotham Gazette

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With Fake Clinics Proliferating, New Yorkers Should Know Their Reproductive Health Care Rights

letitia james andrea miller

Letitia James and Andrea Miller, the authors

When visiting a health care provider, most patients trust that they’ll get a reasonably high standard of medical care and assume that their medical providers will keep their information confidential, and are not actively trying to deceive them. But around the country, 2,700 fake women’s health centers – which sometimes call themselves “crisis pregnancy centers” – are lying to women and giving false information in order to prevent women from having abortions. One hundred of them are here in New York State.

It is imperative that any New York woman or teen who is pregnant, or thinks she might be, can get accurate health care information and knows her rights, including the right to have an abortion.

That’s why the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James have just released “Know Your Rights,” a public awareness and education brochure, so pregnant New Yorkers, those who might be pregnant, and their families and loved ones, can access accurate information about pregnancy and abortion, regardless of whether a woman chooses to continue her pregnancy or not.

Fake clinics actively trick and lure women into their centers. They set up shop near legitimate health care providers and brand themselves with words like “women’s choices” or “pregnancy resources” to suggest they provide all-options counseling and care to help women and teens make fully informed decisions; they advertise free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. Inside, these clinics can look and feel like a real doctor’s office — staff wear white coats or medical scrubs, and pamphlets about pregnancy and ultrasound machines are located in exam rooms. The staff will often lie to women, either telling them that they are farther along in their pregnancy than they really are, and that it is too late for an abortion or that it is earlier in pregnancy than they really are, and they should wait before making any decisions.

Fake clinics are often part of national anti-abortion networks, and they target women from low-income communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities. Alarmingly, fake clinics outnumber real abortion providers by as much as four-to-one nationwide.

New York City saw the dangers these fake clinics posed and passed Local Law 17 in 2011, which took effect in 2016, requiring them to disclose that they don’t have a licensed medical provider on site and to keep client information confidential. Unfortunately, many fake clinics fail to comply with this law.

In light of the federal government’s continued attempts to undermine access to abortion and the current Supreme Court’s indifference to the harms posed by fake clinics, New York must work twice as hard to protect our residents’ right to accurate medical information and abortion care. We must retain our reputation as a state that protects and supports women and girls.

NIRH and Public Advocate James are committed to protecting the reproductive health and rights of all New York women. "Know Your Rights," available at the NIRH website, the public advocate website, and in hard copy around the city, provides a list of legitimate health care providers that offer prenatal care and abortion, and information regarding privacy rights.

New York City residents deserve nothing less.

Letitia James is New York City Public Advocate. Andrea Miller is President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH). On Twitter @TishJames and @AMillerNIRH.

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