So-called “crisis pregnancy centers”—organizations that try to lure people in by implying they provide medical care, only to pressure and harass and even lie in an attempt to prevent people from obtaining abortions at real clinics—are constantly innovating in their quest to be as wretchedly scummy as possible. Their new tactics include using social media to reach teenagers and then using all of the gaps in social media privacy policies to collect data. Still worse, crisis pregnancy centers are hoarding data on the people who get sucked in to contacting them by other means or visiting them in person, Bloomberg reports.
As state after state bans abortion, the data crisis pregnancy centers collect could be used against people who find other ways to terminate pregnancies. You may have read warnings to delete period tracking apps because the information in them could be used against you. Take those warnings and apply them to pregnancy test results in the hands of organizations dedicated to keeping people away from legitimate medical care by any means at their disposal.
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“There’s going to be policing and surveillance of pregnant people and, if there’s an adverse outcome other than a full term, healthy baby, that could invite investigation into what that person might have done to cause that,” the Women’s Law Project’s Tara Murtha warned.
A Florida 19-year-old who got a pregnancy test at a crisis pregnancy center before she realized it wasn’t a medical facility told Bloomberg that when she begged a receptionist for reassurance that her information wouldn’t be made public or used against her, “I remember her saying: ‘Well, honey, this is what happens when you have sex.’”
Crisis pregnancy centers bring sophisticated tools to terrorizing teenagers this way. There are digital marketing companies teaching them how to reach young people on Snapchat, and software companies offering products like “Next Level Center Management Solution,” which can store data on up to 20,000 people for just $100 per month.
“The data your organization collects needs to work not just for you, but for the rest of the pregnancy help movement,” according to its website. “As big data revolutionizes industries around the globe, now is the time to do the same for life-affirming work of pregnancy help. As we pool together what we’ve learned separately, we can begin to wield game-changing predictive and prescriptive analytics that lead to stronger outcomes.”
Where “stronger outcomes” mean tricking vulnerable people into thinking crisis pregnancy centers offer medical care including abortion, giving them drugstore pregnancy tests, pressuring them not to consider abortion, potentially offering medical misinformation—and then using the would-be patient’s data to harass them, track them, and potentially turn them in to prosecutors.
“Their goal is to collect and store ultrasound photos, income, history of possible abuse in relationships, history of addictions, history of drug use, your STI history, your medical history,” Murtha said. “And in many cases this is shared in a national database.”
Crisis pregnancy centers are heavily advertised and ubiquitous, often intentionally located near legitimate Planned Parenthood or other reproductive health clinics. Nationally, they outnumber abortion clinics 3 to 1, a situation that’s only going to get worse as abortion clinics are forced to close in many states. They are well funded—as the existence of special software and data collection programs shows—and national coordination makes them even more dangerous, especially as abortion bans go into effect in potentially dozens of states and safe, reliable medical care becomes even more difficult to access.
Planned Parenthood has information on how to identify a crisis pregnancy center—check it out and steer clear.
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