The American clinics that pretend to offer abortions

A "fake clinic" in the US state of Georgia gave small "foetuses" to people seeking abortions.
A "fake clinic" in the US state of Georgia gave small "foetuses" to people seeking abortions. © Observers

After the June 24 Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and rolled back abortion rights in the United States, activists have been drawing attention to so-called "fake clinics" that look like medical centres. Instead of providing abortions, however, these centres will do anything they can to convince someone otherwise.


Staff in medical scrubs, ultrasound machines and professional websites: these are some of the tools that "crisis pregnancy centres" in the United States use to draw in patients. They set themselves up to appear like Planned Parenthood or another medical centre, in order to attract people who are seeking information about abortion procedures.

>> Read more on The Observers: How 'fake clinics' are tricking people seeking abortions in the US

But instead, crisis pregnancy centres will provide false information or try to dissuade someone from having an abortion. This is why pro-choice advocates are calling them "fake abortion clinics".

'Everybody was wearing lab coats, so I assumed they were doctors'

An initiative called Expose Fake Clinics works to inform people about these crisis pregnancy centres. Our Observer Max Carwile works for Abortion Access Front, the organisation behind the project. She herself visited on of these clinics in Tennessee when she was younger. 

I went there because they had been advertising free pregnancy tests, free STI testing, everything like that. So I went and made an appointment and first I learned they did not have birth control at all. And when I had asked about birth control, they went on a whole rant about how birth control is not to be trusted and that people can't rely on it and that it's not safe, it's dangerous, it'll affect my health, and that the only option is to just never have sex, ever.

They told me it takes a while to get STI test results back and to sit in a room and watch videos. They were all just lies, claiming that disease can slip through condoms, condoms don't work. They were all about God and the Bible and Jesus and never having sex. 

I felt really scared. I felt intimidated. Everybody was wearing lab coats, so I assumed they were doctors, which I now know they were not. Anybody can just purchase a lab coat. But I thought these were people in positions of power with authority over me.

'Some of them purposefully set up right next to real abortion clinics'

These crisis pregnancy centers, they have a wide variety of tactics to lure people in. They heavily advertise on college campuses as a big part of their work with fliers saying, "We will help you with your pregnancy. We will help you with your health care." They will do a lot of digital ads as well. It's a common trend in the United States for the fake clinics to do geo-targeting ads where if if your phone is at an abortion clinic based on your location, they specifically give you ads on get out of that building, come to us instead [Editor's note: as of late August, Google will now only show verified abortion providers in searches].

Some of them purposefully set up right next to real abortion clinics so that they can have volunteers stand in front of the abortion clinics and try to convince patients to go into the fake clinic instead.

They'll set up an ultrasound van outside abortion clinics when we had them in Tennessee before Roe v. Wade fell. And they would try to get patients to come in to their vans and be like, "We're with the clinic. This is a part of your appointment."

These places have a great deal of funding and some even get taxpayer dollars in many states in order to operate. They can lie to patients. They can say whatever they want because they are not medical clinics.

According to Expose Fake Clinics, there were more than 2,500 crisis pregnancy centres in the US as of September 2022, compared to about 800 facilities providing abortions. However, the numbers are constantly changing as more states restrict abortion access. 

Carwile believes that more and more "fake clinics" will pop up in lieu of abortion providers.

There is a lot of confusion and chaos right now. People are unclear if their state has legal abortion access or not. And it could change any day now for a lot of states. Crisis pregnancy centers are counting on that. They want people to not know where to go and end up going to the fake clinic when there aren't any abortion clinics in a state.