Florida reproductive-health advocates are urging people to be aware of anti-abortion groups known as "crisis pregnancy centers" that offer pregnancy tests and counseling to discourage abortions, and sometimes other resources, such as diapers.
The Florida Legislature recently banned abortions after 15 weeks, and this week, a judge deemed the 24-hour waiting period for an abortion constitutional.
Lisa Kovacs, director of the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund and a member of the Tampa Bay Access Force, said it's important to have accurate information about the full range of options — including parenting, adoption or abortion — but these centers often use deceptive tactics to appear to be regular reproductive-care providers.
"It's a serious issue that they're growing while there's just more restrictions to access to abortion," Kovacs said. "The 15-week ban just passed; there's now the 24-hour wait period."
Florida has the second-highest number of crisis pregnancy centers in the nation, with 150 — Texas is the only state with more — compared with 65 actual abortion clinics. The Florida Legislature has allocated at least $30 million to the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, which supports CPCs, since 2009. Centers also have gotten roughly $68 million in foundation funding in recent years.
Before moving to Florida, Kovacs was a volunteer with NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. There, she went to a crisis pregnancy center to learn what the experience is like — what's known as "secret shopping." She said another member who was pregnant donated urine so she could see what they would say to someone who is pregnant.
"While we waited for the results on a dollar-store pregnancy test, which was about an hour," she said, "I was told all the ways that an abortion would give me depression, would be a terrible mistake."
Kovacs added that the staff at that CPC shared various other misconceptions, and called her multiple times afterward to check in. She said her experience reinforced the need to find care that's based in science. She pointed to the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund's website for a list of abortion clinics and other resources and also recommended Plan C, where researchers have vetted many online pharmacies selling abortion pills, testing them for quality and the time they take to arrive, and posting that data on the Plan C website.