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A systemic problem

Crisis pregnancy centers around the country appear to be run in similar ways. The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) study found that roughly 90% of crisis pregnancy centers operate under one of three major conglomerate organizations: The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, Heartbeat International and, in the case of CPRC, Care Net.

Care Net is an anti-abortion Christian nonprofit that operates over 1,200 crisis pregnancy centers around the country, 117 of which are in California.

Centers affiliated with Care Net must pay the organization an annual fee and agree to adhere to their “standards of affiliation.” Among these standards are requirements that all staff, board members and volunteers of affiliated centers must “have made a profession of faith to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord” and commit to “sharing the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ with those it serves , ”Mainly by dissuading clients from seeking abortions. The standards forbid centers from providing or referring clients to abortion services or any methods of contraception.

Organizations like Care Net provide support for affiliated centers through advertising, digital infrastructure, legal advice and training materials. Care Net’s web site states that affiliated centers “receive expert best practice advice on operations, client care, medical services, marketing, board leadership and more.” Rhetoric from the web sites of Care Net’s other local affiliated centers — Dawnings Pregnancy Resource Center in Dinuba and Crossroads Pregnancy Center in Hanford — is nearly identical to that of Care Pregnancy Resource Center (CPRC) in Visalia.

Most of Care Net’s centers are located in rural areas, away from large cities — although according to NARAL’s study, an increasing number of centers are making an effort to target inner-city women of color, particularly Black women, in an attempt to expand their client base. The majority, though, are still located in places like Tulare County where comprehensive reproductive health care is harder to come by. NARAL’s study states that in California, only 59% of counties have one or more abortion providers, while 93% have at least one crisis pregnancy center. Nationally, crisis pregnancy centers outnumber abortion providers by an average of 3 to 1.

In 2019, the Trump administration awarded a grant to Obria, a conglomerate organization for crisis pregnancy centers, under the federal Title X family planning program. That same year, the administration also barred Title X funding recipients from providing or referring abortion services to clients. This caused 98 Planned Parenthood locations and 60 other clinics in California to stop receiving Title X funds — a total of 40.4% of Title X recipients in the state, according to a 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation’s (KFF) report on women’s health.

Though crisis pregnancy centers in California no longer receive state or federal funding, centers in about a dozen states are still given tens of millions of dollars from the government every year. This is one example of the role groups like Care Net play in the national push against reproductive health care access. Research suggests that these organizations use crisis pregnancy centers as a crucial tool in advancing the global anti-abortion movement, one that operates at the local level.

“When we were talking about the lack of abortion access in the area, a few people from the health care and stakeholder leader side said that part of the reason that there is no abortion provider locally is because of opposition from a lot of groups, including crisis pregnancy centers, ”Usha Ranji, associate director for Women’s Health Policy at the KFF report on Tulare County said.

Representatives from CPRC declined requests from The Sun-Gazette for comment.

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