Local Hospital System Is Recommended to Pull Donations, In-Kind Support from Local Crisis Pregnancy Centers Amid New State Law, Enhanced Scrutiny

By Benjamin Cox on August 4, 2023 at 5:14am

Governor J.B. Pritzker recently signed a law allowing the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to investigate crisis pregnancy centers for consumer fraud for allegedly interfering with access to abortion and emergency contraception.

SB1909 adds crisis pregnancy centers to the state’s Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act. The law says that crisis pregnancy centers are not required to provide information about abortion or emergency contraceptives but cannot give incorrect information or use false advertising to attract clients. The law allows the Illinois Attorney General to investigate complaints against centers using such tactics and strengthens the AG’s Offices power to prosecute incidences of consumer fraud in such cases. Attorney General Kwame Raoul said last week that he has witnessed some of the tactics firsthand at a location in the state: “I witnessed deceptive crisis pregnancy center tactics firsthand on a visit to tour a Planned Parenthood health center in Illinois. People who appeared as though they might work there were outside attempting to divert patients away from the health center. Patients report going to crisis pregnancy centers – sometimes even receiving exams and ultrasounds – thinking they were visiting a clinic that offers the full range of reproductive care. As a result, patients may disclose personal medical information, unaware the center may not keep that information private and confidential.”

According to the State Journal Register, a Rockford federal judge ruled Thursday that the new law a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and has placed an injunction on its enforcement.

The law has caused one local hospital system to re-evaluate it’s past partnerships with local crisis pregnancy centers.

In documents obtained by WLDS News on July 13th, the Memorial Health system recently raised the question internally about recent in-kind donations providing financial support to local Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Springfield and Jacksonville as well as in other communities in the Memorial Health system.

According to background information in the documents, the centers provide some pregnancy-related services like pregnancy tests and ultrasounds to the community for free. The facilities are not considered medical in nature, but are unregulated nonprofits that are staffed by volunteers who may or may not have a medical background. The centers are often grounded in pro-life, anti-abortion stances and do not provide referrals for abortions or provide or offer counsel for contraception.

The documents say that Memorial Health has previously provided financial support to the First Step Women’s Center in Springfield, Living Alternatives Pregnancy Resource Center in Jacksonville, and Loving Arms in Taylorville. The amount of support since 2017 provided by Memorial totals between $4,000-$7,000.

According to the Situation Background Assessment Recommendation provided by Memorial Health’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Team in the documents provided, the assessment portion cites numerous entities including the American Medical Association saying that crisis pregnancy centers’ in general commitment to not recommend and frequently discourage some reproductive health care options interferes with a patient’s autonomy to make decisions in their own best interests. It says the centers overall can often create a delay in care that lead to riskier and more expensive procedures for individuals who may no longer be eligible for an abortion procedure. The assessment says the centers often target low income and less educated women, adolescents, and women of color which the assessment leads to further exacerbation of healthcare inequities. There were no direct allegations leveled at the local entities in the assessments in the documents provided.

Given the cited concerns, the recommendation given was to focus resources elsewhere to community partners they say will provide for the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare options. Memorial Health has thus been recommended to discontinue financial and in-kind support for local crisis pregnancy centers, citing research into their websites and social media presence.

In a statement obtained via email by Memorial Health, the hospital system says: “To ensure we honor our mission while being fiscally responsible, Memorial Health routinely reviews all community support requests. This review prompted further evaluation of our approach to such requests, and Memorial Health has determined to focus its limited resources activities and partnerships closely aligned with our mission to improve health and contribute to our ongoing work in health equity.”

An email request for comment to First Step Women’s Center in Springfield and Living Alternatives Pregnancy Resource Center in Jacksonville have not been returned as of press time.