Many anti-abortion pregnancy centers in Colorado are continuing to operate even as non-essential businesses have been forced to close and non-essential medical procedures have been suspended due to coronavirus.
Anti-abortion pregnancy centers, sometimes referred to as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), are typically faith-based organizations that offer free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, and supplies for taking care of a newborn, in addition to “counseling” for those experiencing an unintended pregnancy. That “counseling” typically includes discussing pregnancy outcome options, including abortion, adoption, and parenting, but with an anti-abortion bias that often includes misinformation.
Many of these anti-abortion centers also offer a so-called “abortion reversal” treatment for those who have taken the first of two abortion pills required for a medication abortion, but then come to regret their abortion decision. (The idea that regret is common following an abortion is one that isn’t supported by medical research, but one that anti-abortion pregnancy centers tend to promote.)
For example, Alternatives Pregnancy Center, which is continuing to operate at a couple of its locations in the Denver metropolitan area, offers post-abortion counseling in addition to “abortion reversal” treatment, and its website states that abortion causes a loss of one’s “ability to trust,” “personal beliefs,” and “hopes and dreams.”
Troublingly, the so-called “abortion reversal” method touted by the anti-abortion movement hasn’t been approved by the FDA, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warns that “claims regarding abortion ‘reversal’ treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards.”
In fact, late last year when researchers tried to carry out a study to see if the treatment was safe and effective, they were quickly forced to stop after some women in the study were sent to the hospital after experiencing dangerous hemorrhaging.
“Recent research indicates that abortion reversal is not safe, period,” said Fawn Bolak, Communications Director for ProgressNow Colorado, in a statement to the Colorado Times Recorder. “It’s grossly unsettling that during an unprecedented healthcare crisis, many of these anti-abortion pregnancy centers are continuing to operate, dupe women, and spread medically inaccurate information about abortion and reproductive healthcare. Promoting abortion pill reversal is unacceptable under normal circumstances, but now, as Colorado responds to COVID-19, it’s nothing short of immoral to spread incorrect, dangerous healthcare information to folks during a pandemic.”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered the closure of non-essential businesses in mid-March as COVID-19 began spreading in the state, but many anti-abortion clinics in Colorado, particularly those that actually employ medically trained staff or offer supplies for newborns, are still operating.
“As an essential health care provider, Alternatives will continue to serve those in need with our free counseling and medical services,” said Executive Director Linda Saccomano in a statement to the Colorado Times Recorder. “We know many in our city have job insecurities and possibly even lost their health insurance. Families are reaching out to us for baby supplies including diapers, wipes, formula. The community needs us and Alternatives is here to serve.”
When pressed on whether she was aware of the safety risks associated with abortion reversal treatment and whether she was concerned that potential complications as a result of that treatment could burden an already-burdened health care system, Saccomano didn’t answer directly, but rather linked to a statement from the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists that accuses researchers of attempting to conceal the true results of the abortion reversal study.
The Alpha Center in Fort Collins, which is known to spread misinformation about abortion, is also accepting appointments, but like the Colorado Springs Pregnancy Center, has suspended STD testing to focus on “pregnancy patients” only, their website states.
In Pueblo, A Caring Pregnancy Center, which is known to promote the myth that abortion causes significant health risks, is continuing to operate as well. In fact, on March 23, the organization asked pregnant women to volunteer as “ultrasound models” at their facility, despite the fact that the public health threat caused by coronavirus was well-known at that point in time, and health officials were recommending social distancing.
By March 19, Polis had ordered the suspension of all “nonessential” surgeries and medical procedures in the state, in addition to closing schools, bars, and restaurants and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people.
“Even in the midst of crisis, what happens in our pregnancy center saves and transforms lives every day,” said Executive Director Tamara Axworthy in a letter on the organization’s website. “After speaking with both local and state health departments, several sister centers across Colorado, and our affiliating bodies, we are confident that our decision to continue serving is not only justified but encouraged. Our staff is committed to remain open in order to provide a hope-filled alternative.”
Anti-abortion pregnancy centers are remaining open even in states that have moved to classify abortion as a non-essential health service that can be delayed until after the pandemic subsides.
In an email sent to subscribers, the Colorado Springs-based organization Save the Storks, which partners with crisis pregnancy centers nationwide to provide mobile ultrasound vans, celebrated the fact that anti-abortion centers are staying open during the COVID-19 crisis in states that are making it harder to get an abortion.
“As states issue orders halting abortions, pregnancy resource centers are providing essential care to women in their communities,” the email reads. “Many of our pregnancy resource affiliates are able to stay open and reach more women during the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Some Colorado conservatives have called for abortion clinics in the state to close, but those calls will be unanswered by the state’s top elected officials, all of whom are pro-choice Democrats.
Last week, for example, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser joined an amicus brief opposing Texas’ ban on abortion services during the coronavirus pandemic.