Crisis pregnancy center identification and knowledge of state abortion laws
Awarded 2018
Complex Family Planning Fellowship Research
Jonas Swartz, MD, MPH
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Background: Crisis pregnancy centers (CPC) are non-medical counseling facilities that aim to prevent abortion by intercepting women who are actively looking for a health center that provides abortion, or looking for information about an abortion. This may increase barriers for women in finding an abortion clinic to meet their needs in an efficient manner. Websites of CPCs frequently contain inaccurate information about abortion. Additionally, women may not realize they are not going to an abortion clinic when they arrive at a CPC. Moreover, prior research shows women may have low levels of knowledge about abortion laws in their state. This may cause additional confusion for those seeking an abortion in the setting of proliferation of highly restrictive abortion legislation.
Objective: The purpose of our study was to 1) assess whether women were able to use screenshots from real websites to differentiate between CPCs and abortion clinics; and 2) investigate women’s knowledge of laws regulating abortion in their state of residency and describe women’s ability to discern myths about abortion from facts.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of English- and Spanish-speaking women aged 18-49 in the United States. We enrolled members of the GfK Knowledge Panel, a probability-based online sample. Participants were presented with screenshots from five CPC and five abortion clinic websites and asked if they thought an abortion could be obtained at that center. Correct answers were scored based on clinic type. We also presented 12 questions about laws regulating abortion in a participant’s state. We asked five questions about abortion myths by adapting published abortion knowledge and myth questionnaires.
Important findings: Women had greater difficulty correctly identifying CPCs than abortion clinics based on their websites. Women with less education, lower income levels, low health literacy, Spanish-speaking or had not heard of CPCs were more likely to have a low score for correctly identifying CPCs. Women had low levels of knowledge about abortion laws in their state. They were also likely to believe myths about abortion over facts.
Significance: As restrictions on abortion increase, women may be unaware of the barriers they will face in accessing essential healthcare. They may also base their views of new restrictions on abortion myths. CPC websites are more difficult to identify than websites for abortion clinics. Women with educational and economic disadvantages may be particularly susceptible to deception.