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The latest trend is to convert pregnancy centers into health clinics that offer free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. What they will not offer is referral for birth control. Married clients wanting information on contraception are referred to their own doctor or pastor. But, as Wood explains, most clients are unmarried, and "the Bible clearly states that sex outside of marriage is against God's will for our lives."
That alone is enough to discredit the centers in the eyes of many pro-choice groups, which have always argued that the best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. They are hoping that with the Democrats in control of Congress, legislation like the Prevention First Act will reduce the need for abortions by promoting comprehensive sex education and expanding access to contraception. At Planned Parenthood clinics, fewer than 1 in 10 clients is there for an abortion; the vast majority are there for birth control and reproductive health care (98% of American women have used contraception at some point in their lives). But because promoting abstinence before marriage is a part of the CPC mission, centers are eligible for federal abstinence-education grants, which in some cases have instantly doubled or tripled their budgets. In 2005, roughly 13% of Care Net affiliates got state or federal money; their average budget was $155,000.
The growth in the movement has raised other alarms with pro-choice groups. They point out that while counselors at crisis pregnancy centers lay out the physical and psychological risks associated with abortion, they don't mention that the risk of death in childbirth is 12 times as high and that many women who get abortions experience only relief. Both sides talk about the importance of complete information and informed consent, then argue over what that means. Each side challenges the other's motives: pro-life activists say abortionists are in business for the money and don't care about women; pro-choice advocates counter that crisis pregnancy centers are in the business for the ideology and don't care about women either.
The movement toward "medicalizing" the centers particularly concerns groups like Planned Parenthood that define their mission as offering the most accurate information about the most complete range of reproductive options. The motive behind offering free ultrasounds, which would typically cost at least $100, is more emotional than medical, critics argue, and having them performed by people with limited training and moral agendas poses all kinds of hazards. "What is really tragic to me is that a woman goes into a center looking for information, looking to be able to make a better, healthy choice, and she doesn't get all the facts," argues Christopher Hollis, Planned Parenthood's vice president for governmental and political affairs in North Carolina. "That's taking someone's life and playing a really dangerous game with it."