Illinois takes a step to make sure women get accurate information about abortion care

Crisis pregnancy centers lure patients with free services, but give women misinformation with the goal of stopping them from having abortions, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Illinois writes. SB1909 will hold the centers accountable.

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Illinois is a haven state in the Midwest for abortion care because its residents have consistently voted for legislators who support freedom and bodily autonomy including an Attorney General and Governor who are unapologetically pro-choice. In fact, the majority ofAmericans, in poll after poll, say they believe that abortion should remain legal in all or most cases. (PEW, Gallup)

As the Chief Medical Officer at Planned Parenthood of Illinois and an abortion provider for over 20 years, I routinely hear about the devastating consequences of patients receiving false or incomplete information from crisis pregnancy centers as referenced in a May 8 opinion piece by state Rep. Bill Hauter (R-Morton).

At Planned Parenthood of Illinois, we believe in bodily autonomy and providing the full range of medical-care options so our patients can make informed decisions that are best for their lives, their bodies, and their futures.

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Sadly, this idea is not shared by the crisis pregnancy centers, as they lure patients through their doors by offering free services like pregnancy tests and ultrasounds provided by staff without medical training or regulation. Their singular goal is to stop people from having abortions.

These centers often provide misleading and medically-inaccurate information to people. They misinform people by sharing things that have been debunked as junk science, such as that abortion causes breast cancer or can make someone infertile. They are known to misdiagnose patients, by misdating their pregnancies — which leads them to think either they have more time to decide about abortion or that they are past the window when they can have an abortion.

Medically accurate, unbiased health care

These tactics spread bias, deceit, and misinformation, and they rob people of their ability to make fully informed health care decisions.

A recent patient came in with concerns about her pregnancy. She had been somewhere else and was told she was carrying twins, but that one might not be developing as well as the other.

She showed us the ultrasound pictures on her phone. However, the images did not resemble typical medical ultrasound images. We quickly realized that the patient had been misinformed and had not actually received anything close to the standard of care for pregnancy diagnosis and assessment.

After she was given an ultrasound at Planned Parenthood, it was determined that the patient actually had a molar pregnancy (a rare complication) which is not viable and, if left untreated, can cause cancer. It is an outrage that the patient had been led to believe that she had received legitimate health care for her pregnancy, when really she was given the wrong information that could have caused severe health issues.

Senate Bill 1909, the Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act, protects patients and allows everyone the freedom to receive medically-accurate and unbiased information. It has passed both houses of the Legislature. It is not intended to close down any organization; rather, it holds accountable those that systematically employ deception, fraud, and false pretense in order to sway a patient’s health care decisions.

Rep. Bill Hauter opposes access to abortion. He introduced HB 4028, which singles out abortion for special regulations which are not applied to any other similar medical procedure. Clearly, Hauter believes that abortion should be marginalized from other health care and targeted for extra regulation.

The bottom line is that abortion is health care. Period. All patients in Illinois deserve equitable access to the health care they need and deserve, free of harassment, or deception. At Planned Parenthood of Illinois, we continue to fight for the rights of our patients to make health care decisions that are best for them.

Amy Whitaker, MD, is chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Illinois and has been involved with the organization for over 20 years. She is also a clinical associate professor in the University of Chicago’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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