In our investigations, we found:
- 50% of fake clinics visited falsely claimed abortion causes breast cancer.
- 77% of fake clinics visited falsely claimed abortion causes future infertility.
- 86% of fake clinics visited gave medically inaccurate information about abortion procedures when asked by the investigator.
- 83% of fake clinics called that provide limited ultrasound services did not acknowledge the forced ultrasound requirement prior to abortion has been repealed when given the opportunity by the caller.
- 80% of fake clinics visited gave medically inaccurate information about fetal development when asked by the investigator.
- 46% of fake clinics visited gave medically inaccurate information about birth control and sexually transmitted infections when asked by the investigator.
When Virginians enter a fake clinic, they’re looking for unbiased and medically accurate information to help guide their personal, private decision-making.
Fake clinics work hard to make pregnant people believe they can be trusted– and then lie to them.
When Virginians, their partners, and their loved ones are told by fake clinics that some of their reproductive health options will have devastating health and/or psychological effects, fear impacts their decision-making process. Fake clinics intentionally peddle lies and disinformation about their client’s health and well-being, knowing that fear-mongering can help dissuade a person from considering safe, legal abortion. These scare tactics rob Virginians of their right to make fully informed decisions about their reproductive health that are best for them.
Widespread Lies About Risks
Despite being widely disproved by the medical community, anti-abortion fake clinics continue to perpetuate lies and falsehoods to incite fear in their clients. In particular, fake clinics focus on false claims and exaggerations of the health risks associated with abortion and contraception.
Fake Clinic: “Actually the best thing you can do for breast health– you know many women have breast cancer– is one, you don’t do the birth control pill at all, they’re hormones. And two, you do not have an abortion.”
– Staff at Choices Women’s Center in Fredericksburg, Va.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), a widely-recognized and respected membership organization of medical professionals specializing in reproductive healthcare, confirmed in 2003 — and reaffirmed in 2019 — that there is “no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk” .
To disprove false anti-abortion claims surrounding contraceptive use, ACOG also states that “the risk difference between hormonal contraception users and nonusers is small,” and “the overall risk of breast cancer in hormonal birth control users remains very low,” citing a 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Furthermore, they state that hormonal birth control is very effective at preventing pregnancy and can even “lower a women’s overall risk of cancer by providing protection against other types of cancer” .
Fake Clinic: “Abortion is not that good for you… can be dangerous, you know… abortion can be dangerous for you.”
Investigator: “You mean I couldn’t have a baby later?”
Staff: “Maybe — could be! You could have a problem! Could be a problem later. I recommend not to do it. Keep the baby, in case.”
– Conversation during a visit between NARAL Virginia Investigator and staff at Birthright in Woodbridge, Va.
Fake Clinic: “We believe that your life is important… there are dangers [with abortion], to having all kinds of not only side effects that, you know, people that do want to tell you about, but also you may never be able to have another child. That’s another possibility.”
– Staff at the MaRiH Center in Alexandria, Va.
Legal abortion is safe and effective. According to ACOG, abortion is a “low-risk procedure,” and major complications that require hospitalization are rare. In fact, the risk of dying from giving birth is actually 14x greater than the risk of dying from early abortion. ACOG states that abortion does not affect a person’s ability to get pregnant or impact the risk of future pregnancy complications . Graphic untruths like these are intended only to scare patients out of accessing their constitutional right to abortion care.
Misleading Information on Virginia’s Repealed Forced Ultrasound Requirement
On July 1, 2020, the Reproductive Health Protection Act went into effect in Virginia, repealing many archaic, medically-unnecessary restrictions on safe, legal abortion access– including a politically-motivated requirement that an ultrasound be performed before accessing abortion care. For decades, fake clinics across the Commonwealth offered free ultrasounds as a tactic to lure in pregnant people, particularly low-income Virginians, to push their anti-abortion agenda.
Out of the 59 fake clinics identified by NARAL Virginia, 37 continue to offer limited ultrasound services. In August 2020, NARAL Virginia spoke to some of these fake clinics and discovered that, when the investigator explicitly stated they wanted an ultrasound to satisfy the now-repealed forced ultrasound requirement, the majority of fake clinics did not acknowledge it was no longer necessary. Instead, they continued to persuade the caller to schedule an appointment for an ultrasound. They continue to exploit an outdated restriction as a way to entice pregnant people into fake clinics under the guise of providing a “required service.”
Investigator: “Well the reason I wanted to come in and get an ultrasound was because I read that, um, you have to get one done before you can have an abortion…
Fake Clinic: “…yeah, absolutely…”
Investigator: “…is that how it is? That’s what I have to do, right?”
Fake Clinic: “So, let me go through a couple more things and then let me get back to that question.”
[The staff member never revisits the question about the forced ultrasound requirement.]
– Phone call between NARAL Virginia Investigator and Comfort Care Women’s Health in Staunton, Va.
When we spoke with the Keim Center– which operates five fake clinic locations across the Hampton Roads region and is the recipient of anti-abortion giant NIFLA’s 2019 “Excellence Award”— they did not acknowledge that the forced ultrasound requirement no longer stands, even though it was made clear that complying with the requirement was the client’s sole reason for making an appointment.
Investigator: “The reason I was calling is because I was hoping that I could get an ultrasound because I was reading about getting an abortion, and I saw that I have to have an ultrasound first…”
Fake Clinic: “Mhmm.”
Investigator: “… so that’s why I was hoping I could come in and get that done.”
Fake Clinic: “Okay. Yes, it’s a really good idea to have that ultrasound first…”
– Call between NARAL Virginia Investigator and the Kiem Center in Norfolk, Va.
It’s impossible that the Keim Center is unaware of the effects of the Reproductive Health Protection Act, given that their nursing director  gave in-person testimony in opposition to RHPA during a Virginia State Senate Education and Health Committee meeting.
By failing to acknowledge the repeal of anti-abortion laws like the forced ultrasound requirement, fake clinics are actively spreading disinformation about a person’s legal right to access safe, timely abortion in Virginia. Not only is this disingenuous, but it restricts a person’s autonomy in making an informed decision about their healthcare.
Investigator: “… so I wanted to come in for an ultrasound because I read that I have to get one before I could get an abortion.”
Fake Clinic: “Right. It… it definitely is recommended…”
– Phone call between NARAL Virginia Investigator and NOVA Pregnancy Help Center in Alexandria and Fairfax, Va.
Investigator: “The reason I was calling is because I read online that… I have to have an ultrasound done before I could get one, so that’s kinda why I wanted to come in.”
Fake Clinic: “Okay. So let me see… we have an appointment tomorrow, we could get you in.”
– Phone call between NARAL Virginia Investigator and AVA Care in Harrisonburg, Va.
Purposeful Medical Inaccuracies
Fake clinic tactics that exaggerate fetal development can serve two purposes: to inflict guilt and shame upon the client, and/or to lead the client to believe they are further along in their pregnancy than they are, and that they fall outside the legal window to access an abortion. By falsely insinuating the fetus is further developed than what is scientifically accurate, fake clinics attempt to manipulate to a client’s emotions and decision-making.
“On the table in the waiting room, there was an old photo album that was used as a scrapbook of sorts with largely incorrect information about fetal development. One of the pages stated that ‘babies’ could feel pain and respond to the outside world at just four weeks. Almost no scientific or biological terms were used in this book– the words child or baby were always used instead.”
– NARAL Virginia Investigator at the MaRiH Center in Alexandria, Va.
Anti-abortion politicians often use inaccurate claims about fetal pain to justify abortion bans, and fake clinics also use this false narrative to shame and guilt their clients. Scientific evidence debunks the claim, cited above, stating that a fetus cannot feel pain at four weeks gestation .
The majority of fake clinics do not offer comprehensive sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment services. Instead, they disseminate medical inaccuracies about how STIs are contracted in attempts to further their abstinence-only agenda. Every person deserves accurate information that empowers them to have healthy sexual relationships. Leading sexually active individuals to believe that safe sex practices, such as male condoms, are ineffective and not worth using can actively endanger a person’s health and safety and public health at large. In reality, latex condoms, “when used consistently and correctly are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV” and are effective at preventing the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control .
Investigator: “Are condoms generally pretty effective?”
Fake Clinic: “It depends on how they’re used… it’s very hard to use them at the proper time and that they don’t slip or they can leak and they can have microscopic holes. Nobody knows for sure if there are microscopic holes… And you know some people say it’s like Russian roulette. The thing that’s scary about them too is that the HIV virus can go through the holes in condoms.”