The 'Noble Lie' lives on
Photo by Dev Asangbam on Unsplash
Plato (in The Republic) was the father of the “noble lie,” a tale told to people “for their own good and that of society” even though it was utterly untrue. Almost twenty-five-hundred years later, the noble lie lives on in some Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs).

A clear description of CPCs came from the AI-driven search engine:

“Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are anti-abortion clinics with a hidden agenda and part of an industry built on misleading pregnant people with scare tactics and lies. They are designed to look like real health centers, but their goal is to scare, shame, or pressure people out of getting an abortion and to spread lies about abortion, birth control, and sexual health. CPCs are dangerous, predatory organizations and a risk to public health.”

And they and their affiliated groups are hauling in a boatload of money. Over $4 billion dollars a year according to the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) — much of it government money, millions taken out of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds — flows to CPCs. One-fifth of our states, all under Republican control, now directly fund these organizations with taxpayer money.

Just the top ten groups running CPCs across the country raked in, NCRP says, over $2.2 billion last year, although how much of that went specifically to discourage women from getting abortions is uncertain.

Texas gave $200 million in taxpayer dollars to CPCs over the past two years. During his State of the State address last week, Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee proposed giving CPCs in his state $100 million.

The noble lie trend is moving fast across Red states nationwide.

A database compiled by Reproaction found over 2600 CPCs across the country, many located next door to abortion clinics or Planned Parenthood clinics, where they attempt to fool and thus intercept women before they can enter the real clinics.

When Olivia Raisner, an investigative reporter with health education nonprofit Mayday, visited a CPC in Indianapolis for an article three months ago in MS Magazine, she noted how the waiting area and exam room were exactly what you’d expect when visiting a high-end doctor’s office.

Her urine test was positive because she’d smuggled in a bottle of a pregnant friend’s urine, so the first noble lie the faux clinician told her was:

“The girls that get abortions do end up with high suicide rates.”

Following that lie, she was told that if she got an abortion she’d experience depression for the rest of her life and that if she later has a child she “won’t be able to fully love him, because I’ll always be reminded that I took away his brother or sister.”

That lie was followed by the serial lies that abortion will scar her Fallopian tubes and that she’d risk bulimia, anorexia, and infertility.

None of those assertions are true.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, did a ten-year, 1000-patient study of women who got abortions and women who’d wanted or tried to get abortions but, for various reasons, were turned away.

It was the first major study of its sort, and was turned into a 2021 book titled The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, A Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having - or Being Denied - an Abortion.

Their findings are sobering. As summarized on the UCSF’s ANSIRI website, women who were unwillingly forced to carry their pregnancies to term were, according to actual science and research:

—“More likely to experience serious complications from the end of pregnancy including eclampsia and death.
—“More likely to stay tethered to abusive partners.
— “More likely to suffer anxiety and loss of self-esteem in the short term after being denied abortion.
— “Less likely to have aspirational life plans for the coming year.
— “More likely to experience poor physical health for years after the pregnancy, including chronic pain and gestational hypertension.”

They also determined that:

“[B]eing denied abortion has serious implications for the children born of unwanted pregnancy, as well as for the existing children in the family.”

And they found, supporting previous research, that women denied abortions were four times more likely to end up in poverty and, on the other hand:

“[W]omen who have an abortion are not more likely than those denied the procedure to have depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation. We find that 95% of women report that having the abortion was the right decision for them over five years after the procedure.” [emphasis added]

Pro-Choice North Carolina compiled a list of the top ten noble lies CPCs in that state had told women who came looking for abortions. They were:

— Lie #1: Abortion causes breast cancer.
— Lie #2: You’ll never have children if you have an abortion.
— Lie #3: Condoms don’t work.
Lie #4: The abortion pill, or a 'chemical abortion,' is dangerous and not medically safe for women.
— Lie #5: Birth control and emergency contraception (i.e., the “morning-after pill” or “Plan B”) cause abortions.
Lie #6: Abortion causes permanent psychological and mental damage, including “post-abortion syndrome”
— Lie #7: Abortions cost much more than carrying your baby to term.
— Lie #8: Surgical abortion can kill you.
— Lie #9: You have plenty of time to make a decision. One-third of all pregnancies end in miscarriages anyway. (This is intended to push women beyond the legal time limit for abortion.)
— Lie #10: Your baby can already smell and hear you.

CPCs are growing increasingly sophisticated in their targeting of women looking for abortion services. As Kylie Cheung wrote for Jezebel:

“Anti-abortion groups are already taking advantage of digital platforms to spy on people, from funding and partnering with fertility apps that track people’s periods to reportedly using mobile geo-fencing technology to bombard patients at or en route to abortion clinics with targeted, anti-abortion propaganda ads.”

This week the Tech Transparency Project broke the news that Google, in apparent violation of their own policy against deceptive advertising, has been driving ads and links from CPCs to as many as 56% of women searching for abortion facilities near them.

A typical CPC ad, The Guardian reported Tuesday, has the headline “Free Abortion Help – 100% Confidential.”

And it’s apparently not just Google. The investigative reporting website Reveal reported last June:

“Facebook is collecting ultra-sensitive personal data about abortion seekers and enabling anti-abortion organizations to use that data as a tool to target and influence people online, in violation of its own policies and promises.”

Just as alarming, what happens at CPCs doesn’t, it appears, stay at CPCs. Some of the various groups and networks (some are huge) share information among each other and, as Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa notes:

“Because CPCs do not provide medical care, they do not have to adhere to any medical or ethical standards, including HIPAA, the national standard established to protect medical records and other personal health information. That means they are free to say whatever they want without consequence.”

There’s also a widespread concern across the pro-choice movement that as states move to criminalize or put a bounty on the backs of women who travel out-of-state to obtain abortions (Texas was the first), information gathered by CPCs may be handed off or sold to law enforcement or bounty hunters to track down women who, after visiting a CPC, leave the state to get the care they’re seeking.

Even though CPCs aren’t licensed medical facilities, they do often perform procedures like ultrasounds that in many states are unregulated. Kentucky nurse Susan Rames, an actual healthcare professional with 20 years of hospital experience and “motivated by her Christian faith,” volunteered in good faith to work at a CPC in Louisville.

As Louisville’s arts and entertainment newspaper LEO Weekly reported:

“The center was using an expired disinfectant to sanitize an essential piece of equipment for early-pregnancy ultrasounds: the transvaginal probe. And that disinfectant, medical researchers have warned in recent years, doesn’t kill the human papillomavirus, a widespread and potentially deadly sexually transmitted infection responsible for more than 90% of cervical cancers, as well as cancers of the genitals and throat.”

When Rames tried to get the clinic to upgrade to the right disinfectant her efforts were rebuffed: she even bought some of the right stuff on and donated it to the CPC. Finally, frustrated, she filed a whistleblower complaint. But because CPCs aren’t regulated in Kentucky, her concerns were ignored by the state.

Pregnancy is the only health condition where noble lies are allowed.

If a healthcare professional — and actual nurses work in some of these CPCs — were to intentionally tell you lies about treating cancer, broken bones, hypertension, diabetes, or any other condition they could end up both on the receiving end of a major civil lawsuit, losing their license, or even in jail.

But because CPCs are largely unregulated and don’t generally offer medical services (even though they pretend to), women who are taken in or even infected with HPV have no recourse.

For the moment, the only defense women have against these noble liars is knowledge of what they are and how they work. Pass it on.