Elizabeth Warren Wants To Shut Down All of the Country's Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Doing so would be blatantly unconstitutional.


"In Massachusetts right now, those crisis pregnancy centers that are there to fool people who are looking for pregnancy termination help outnumber true abortion clinics by three to one," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) told NBC 10 Boston. "We need to shut them down here in Massachusetts and we need to shut them down all around the country."

"You should not be able to torture a pregnant person like that," she added, referring to the work done by the pro-life charities.

It's unclear what legal authority Elizabeth Warren would use to enact her will. In fact, a sitting U.S. senator trying to shut down charitable organizations, like crisis pregnancy centers, for no violation of laws but rather due to the fact that they further the pro-life cause, would be quite blatantly unconstitutional.

Warren has, in the past, creatively suggested that abortion clinics be set up on federal lands. And last month, she introduced the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act, along with Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (D–N.Y.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D–Ore.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D–N.J.), which would empower the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on purportedly false claims made by crisis pregnancy centers. If passed, these pro-life centers could be fined $100,000 (or 50 percent of revenues earned by the parent entity) for violating the "prohibition on [abortion] disinformation." But the bill does not define, with any specificity, what qualifies as disinformation—that's to be expanded on at a later date, per the bill's text—and it's hard to see how this wouldn't entail either unconstitutional restrictions on activists' free speech or some kind of highly-politicized body attempting to define "disinformation" in biased ways.

Per Warren's comments and legislation, it's clear she has a problem with crisis pregnancy centers and their work, which she claims is tantamount to "torture." But she can't harness the power of the federal government to go after these organizations because she dislikes the cause they're promoting.

If a specific crisis pregnancy center is engaged in fraudulent activity—breaking actual laws—that's cause for investigation and possible shutdown. And she is correct to claim that some of them do provide misleading information. An NBC News investigation, in which reporters went undercover, found that a crisis pregnancy center at the southern border "played a video saying that abortions cause mental illness," and had a staffer "impl[ying] that abortions can cause cancer and infertility." When a producer visited another crisis pregnancy center as part of the investigation, a counselor repeated infertility scaremongering before gifting her baby booties for her child. Claims about abortion being linked to infertility and cancer are not true; medically speaking, abortion is actually quite safe (for the mother, that is).

Sometimes these centers steer women toward viewing ultrasounds of their babies, in the hopes of guilting them into keeping them by showing them how much they already resemble tiny humans. Some crisis pregnancy centers use aggressive, deceptive marketing to capture women's abortion-related search results and lure them into the centers, which get disguised as clinics. (As Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote recently, some Democratic senators—Warren included—are trying to pressure Google CEO Sundar Pichai to restrict crisis pregnancy centers from search results and to attach disclaimers to the pregnancy centers that do pop up.)

Warren misses or obscures the fact that many of these centers provide clothing, diapers, formula, and counseling to women who are severely in need—all while ignoring that these centers have recently come under attack by arsonists and vandals all over the country who are trying to prevent these centers from performing the charitable work they set out to do. Of course, volunteers and workers at these centers are not agnostic about which choice women make; these charities are all founded to persuade women to choose not to abort their babies. They're attempts by pro-lifers to spend their time and resources in a way that's consistent with their convictions.

Pro-choicers frequently criticize pro-lifers for abandoning women once they've made the decision not to abort or for being insufficiently charitable toward mothers in need. But crisis pregnancy centers are attempts, however imperfect, at precisely that. Whatever you think of their tactics, calling for them to be shut down by the federal government would be a gross misuse of state power.