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Illinois lawmakers are requiring honesty from crisis pregnancy centers. Here’s what Urbana activists want to do.

A nurse holds an ultrasound abdominal probe at a Crisis Pregnancy Center in Tennessee. Across the country, including in Illinois, the centers have been accused of deceiving pregnant patients.

CHAMPAIGN — When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, Kit Santa Ana, an organizer in Champaign-Urbana, said she was inspired to do something. 

That started, she said, with making sure local pregnancy centers were being honest with their clients. 

Pregnancy resource centers offer resources and options to people who are pregnant. But local activists, like Santa Ana, said they often try to deter people from having abortions.

“These centers are actually kind of the next battleground,” Santa Ana said. “They are trying to move into different areas to turn the screws on the rest of the safe havens for abortion.” 

There are 97 crisis pregnancy centers in Illinois, according to a map made by a University of Georgia researcher. Some pregnancy resource centers spread inaccurate health information about abortions, researchers said

It’s vital that these centers are providing correct information about their services and abortions, Santa Ana said. 

“The only way to ensure reproductive liberation is to make sure that the community is all banded together and we’re presenting as a strong force and an educated force,” Santa Ana said. 

Local abortion rights advocates said there are two pregnancy resource centers in Champaign. The CEO of Living Alternatives Pregnancy Resource Center, Sherry Sherwood, said they are explicit about the fact that they don’t offer abortions. 

“If there’s something else we need to do, we’re happy to do it,” Sherwood said. “But we’re doing everything that we know we’re supposed to do.”

The Party for Socialism and Liberation in Champaign-Urbana has drafted an ordinance that’s under consideration in the Urbana City Council. 

It requires pregnancy centers to post signage letting clients know if they don’t have any licensed medical staff, employ mental health professionals without licenses and when they aren’t required by HIPAA to keep information confidential. 

There are currently no pregnancy centers in Urbana. But Santa Ana said this might help deter pregnancy centers that use these practices from moving into the city. 

In Illinois, a bill that would make it easier for residents to sue pregnancy centers that use deceptive practices to prevent abortions, has passed both the House and the Senate. It awaits a signature from Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The bill has been on her radar, Sherwood said, because she’s been worried about how it would affect pregnancy resources in Illinois. But Sherwood said they have licensed medical professionals on staff and chose to be HIPAA compliant to keep patient information confidential.

“I wish the doctor’s offices I went to were as careful about patient information as we are at the clinic,” Sherwood said. “We do everything the way that the medical community does.” 

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul supported the bill and condemned many practices of crisis pregnancy centers that he observed himself. 

“While crisis pregnancy centers may advertise their services generally to pregnant people, many of these centers offer very limited services, such as basic ultrasounds and counseling against abortion,” a press release from his office said. 

“Many provide misleading information overstating the risks associated with abortion, including conveying false claims that abortion causes cancer or infertility.” 

Local abortion rights advocate Julie Laut said the Illinois bill is important because it will help hold all pregnancy centers in Illinois accountable. 

“It’s one more way that Illinois, in particular, can shore up its protections for people’s access to choice,” Laut said. 

Farrah Anderson is a journalist and student at the University of Illinois. Follow her on Twitter @farrahsoa.

Farrah Anderson

Farrah Anderson

Farrah Anderson is a student at the University of Illinois studying journalism. At Illinois Public Media, Anderson works as a general assignment reporter and produces and hosts the 217 Today podcast.

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