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Ellison issues consumer alert about Minnesota crisis pregnancy centers

By: - August 23, 2022 12:05 pm

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Minnesota crisis pregnancy centers target low-income people and provide misleading information about abortion and contraception, according to Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Ellison on Tuesday issued a consumer alert for Minnesotans warning that crisis pregnancy centers tout comprehensive health care but actually push pregnant people away from abortion — often through deceiving messaging and methods.

Minnesota has 90 crisis pregnancy centers, far outnumbering the state’s eight abortion clinics, according to a report by The Alliance: State Advocates for Women’s Rights & Gender Equality.

“As Minnesota’s chief consumer advocate and legal officer, I want to alert Minnesotans that crisis pregnancy centers often do not offer the services they claim to offer, and that the information about abortion and contraception they offer may be inaccurate or misleading,” Ellison said in a release.

Ellison is locked in a tight reelection battle with GOP nominee Jim Schultz, who is anti-abortion and has worked with a group that spreads debunked abortion claims. Ellison has recently been touting his support for abortion rights, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision striking down Roe v. Wade. 

The vast majority of Minnesota’s crisis pregnancy centers do not have licensed physicians or registered nurses on staff and do not provide medical services, according to The Alliance report. 

Almost two-thirds of Minnesota’s crisis pregnancy centers offer false or “biased medical claims about abortions,” the report states. Nearly half of Minnesota’s crisis pregnancy centers offer “non-diagnostic ultrasounds,” which experts say serve no medical purpose and may delay a pregnant person’s effort to seek prenatal care.

Taxpayers fund many crisis pregnancy centers through the 2005 Minnesota Positive Abortion Alternatives program, according to the report. The state statute bankrolls anti-abortion groups and claims to promote healthy pregnancies, but it requires those awarded the funds to encourage pregnant people to carry their pregnancies to term.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Jensen late last month released a plan “to support and protect women,” which includes a proposal to increase funding to crisis pregnancy centers in Minnesota. Jensen has stated that more funding needs to go to the centers to aid pregnant people emotionally and financially. 

His running mate Matt Birk, who is on the board of directors of the Guiding Star Wakota in West St. Paul, incorrectly stated in June that crisis pregnancy centers receive no state funding. 

Minnesota has high rates of maternal mortality among Native American and Black residents — evidence, the report argues, that crisis pregnancy centers are not providing adequate care to people seeking aid.

In Minnesota, crisis pregnancy centers are not regulated under state law, according to the attorney general’s office. Attorneys general in California and Massachusetts have also issued consumer warnings about crisis pregnancy centers.

Ellison’s office said pregnant people should consult a licensed health care professional and do their research when seeking services so they aren’t misled by crisis pregnancy centers.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues. For two years she was also a corps member with Report for America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms and news deserts. She lives in St. Paul and likes to knit and watch documentaries in her free time.

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