How 'fake clinics' are tricking people seeking abortions in the US

In New York, a protester points to a "fake escort", posing as someone who would walk an abortion seeker safely to a clinic, outside Planned Parenthood on June 4.
In New York, a protester points to a "fake escort", posing as someone who would walk an abortion seeker safely to a clinic, outside Planned Parenthood on June 4. © Dashiell Allen

Posing as an abortion clinic and then convincing women not to undergo the procedure is a tried and tested technique used by "crisis pregnancy centres" in the United States. Now that the right to have an abortion is no longer protected across the country, activists are redoubling their efforts to inform the public about these deceptive clinics and the methods they use to draw in clients.


Free pregnancy tests, an appointment with a "nurse" for advice... to the untrained eye the services offered at American "crisis pregnancy centres" (CPC) seem just like abortion clinics. Yet their end goal is much different: to convince people not to have an abortion, by any means necessary.

They often distort scientific facts, telling pregnant people they are farther along than they are or warning that abortion increases infertility. They may try to play on a person's heartstrings by making them listen to a heartbeat.

Now, after the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling which protected the right to abortion at the federal level, activists are coming together to inform people about proper abortion providers.

>> Read more on The Observers: The 'fake abortion clinics' misleading women in the United States

In 2022, there were 2,500 CPCs listed around the United States, according to the Crisis Pregnancy Center Map. In contrast, there were around 1,500 abortion providers in the country in 2017, the last year that data was made available.

Kennedy directs people to real abortion clinics. In this video, she is standing in front of a fake mobile pregnancy centre which attempts to intercept people trying to access an abortion provider in Charlotte, North Carolina.

'Their motive is to do whatever they can to talk you out of having an abortion'

Our Observer, Jennifer, is 38 years old and has three children. She had an abortion at age 15 and was able to avoid these fake clinics thanks to the guidance of her mother and sister. Today, she tries to raise awareness of these facilities for those who may not have access to the right information.

On her social media accounts, she denounced a crisis pregnancy centre in Buffalo, New York. She protested in front of the site three times in May and said she was able to help inform people who thought they were there to get information about abortion.

@queencityfeminist Some fav moments from today's protest at Compass Care in Buffalo, NY #exposefakeclinics #shouldabeenaborted #fakeclinics #proabortion ♬ original sound - queencityfeminist
Jennifer and other abortion rights advocates on May 8 in front of a crisis pregnancy centre in Buffalo, New York.

They primarily put themselves in close proximity to actual clinics. They wear lab coats and look like doctors and nurses but they're not.  

The activists who are against these "fake clinics" say that many of the people working there have no medical background, and are often affiliated with religious groups.

A "fake clinic" located next to a Planned Parenthood (seen in the second photo) in Tempe, Arizona.

They don't refer to abortion until you're there. If you call before, they'll say 'Let's confirm your pregnancy, we'll give you a sonogram'. They just want to get you in the door in any way possible. Their motive is to do whatever they can to talk you out of having an abortion.

This method of attracting pregnant individuals seems to be by design. In a VICE investigation from 2016, an abortion rights opponent said at a training session for crisis pregnancy centres, "The best client you ever get is the one who that thinks they're walking into an abortion clinic."

@queencityfeminist ROCHESTER!! Compass Care is also in your neck of the woods! 2024 W Henrietta Road! Do NOT go here!! #exposefakeclinics #proabortion ♬ Lie Lie Lie - Metric
Jennifer denounces a pregnancy centre in Rochester, New York in May 2022.

Jennifer continued:

The fake clinics are tax-exempt and getting a lot of money [Editor's note: via religious donors but also public funds]. They advertise everywhere, you'll see 'Free free free!' And we don't have free healthcare in the US, the cost of pregnancy is thousands and thousands of dollars. 

Avoiding the traps of fake clinics

With the right to abortion no longer guaranteed in the United States, pro-choice advocates are mobilising to prevent abortion seekers from going to these "fake clinics". 

Jennifer told us some of the telltale signs to look out for.

Real clinics are not going to offer you a free sonogram. They are not advertising free stuff because they are real medical professionals who need to get paid. 

Fake clinics also might have nomes like 'Motherhood' or 'Choice for mother' whereas our abortion clinics are called something like 'Women's services'. There are a lot of little flags.

There are also websites that list real clinics [Editor's note: such as this one or this one].

Kennedy, an abortion rights activist, films a man working for a mobile pregnancy centre outside a Charlotte, North Carolina abortion clinic on May 14. He holds a sign offering free ultrasounds.

Another sign is they say things like 'Why choose our establishment?' and not Planned Parenthood [like at the centre in Buffalo]. A real clinic would listen to you and make sure you are given all options. When I went to Planned Parenthood for my first child, they hooked me up with a real OBGYN and they didn't push anything on me.

This map from the "Expose Fake Clinics" website shows crisis pregnancy centres.

In some states, crisis pregnancy centres far outnumber real abortion providers, even before the overturning of Roe v. Wade. There was one real clinic for every ten CPCs in Texas, for example. In 2022, there were only three abortion providers in Louisiana and one in Oklahoma.

After Roe v. Wade was struck down, abortion providers in certain states have already had to begin closing their doors altogether. 

Un groupe "d'escorte" guide les femmes à se diriger vers de vraies cliniques en Caroline du Nord.
Une manifestante dénonce une "fausse escorte" devant le planning familial à New York le 4 juin . On peut voir qu'elle tient une croix en bois.

These places are so harmful to communities. We do have the technology to get this information out there, we can expose these fake clinics and make sure that people have the information they need.

Even though these "fake clinics" openly deliver scientifically false information and use deceptive methods to persuade, they remain legal and even partially funded by public money. 

In some states, however, counties require the centres to state that they are not medical facilities. On June 23, Democrats introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to combat false information about abortion.