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Lawmakers, doctors concerned crisis pregnancy centers will expand under Indiana's abortion ban

Crisis pregnancy centers are everywhere, spread out all around the Hoosier State. But they cannot offer abortions or even health care.

INDIANAPOLIS — With abortion now banned in nearly all cases in Indiana, pregnant women in need of help or health care will now have far fewer places to turn for help. 

Crisis pregnancy centers are everywhere, spread out all around the Hoosier State. But they cannot offer abortions or even health care.

"What we consider to be crisis pregnancy centers or these centers that focus on anti-abortion education are very problematic. Many times there is not anyone with actual health care training on site, much less on staff. Many times these locations exist for the sole purpose of coercing patients to continue a pregnancy," said Dr. Katie McHugh, an abortion provider and OB-GYN care provider in Indiana.

These crisis pregnancy centers cannot offer women prenatal care or contraception, often just pregnancy tests, limited ultrasounds for pregnancy confirmation and advice from non-medical professionals seeking to steer woman away from abortion and toward parenting or adoption. 

RELATED: 'Historic day': Indiana's abortion ban takes effect

Sometimes, McHugh said, her patients have described centers using fear tactics and confusion to get women to continue their pregnancies. That's concerning, McHugh said, and problematic for women. 

“Patients come to see me at my clinics asking for another ultrasound or making sure, because they’ve already been to a crisis pregnancy center and received really confusing information. When they go to those crisis pregnancy centers, the staff there the intent is to confuse and mislead,” McHugh said. 

With pregnant people coming in for care, McHugh said it's important to inform them of all their options and let them choose how they want to move forward, not pressure women one way or another. 

“Every patient that I meet has a different story and a different reason for choosing either abortion or to continue a pregnancy. As an abortion provider, it is part of my job to ensure that the patient has all of the information, knows all of their choices and then feels compelled and empowered to make the choice that is best for themselves,” McHugh said. 

RELATED: ACLU files lawsuit claiming new abortion restrictions violate Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act

“It is against our ethical code as a physician and any kind of health care provider to withhold critical information from patients when it is their information to have. In fact, we have laws now that protect patients' information and access to their own information," McHugh said. "What’s tricky is that these crisis pregnancy centers get away with it because they’re not actual health care centers, so then they don’t end up being beholden to those same laws."

But still, internet searches for abortion can quickly steer you toward these centers, typically coming right up in the top results.  And often, crisis pregnancy centers are receiving state funding to try and reach pregnant people seeking medical care. 

Now that Indiana has banned most abortions, Senator Shelli Yoder, D-District 40, said she's concerned that more state funding will be increased even further for these centers, further confusing pregnant people on their options.

"We are continuing to fund these centers and funnel more and more dollars to centers that quite frankly do not have truth in advertising, do not provide the kind of care that their billboards purport to provide," Yoder said.

RELATED: Many health care experts in Indiana unsure of answers to patients' abortion questions

Yoder said she wants to see the state tamp down on funding and false claims made by crisis pregnancy centers trying to turn women away from abortion care.

Amendments to do that failed in the special session, but Yoder said she'll be bringing legislation back up again in 2023, pushing to ensure these centers are required to be truthful in advertising and in services, so Hoosier women can make the best decision for themselves.

"We need to make sure that we're holding crisis pregnancy resource centers accountable and that Hoosiers have the information they deserve in order to make sound decisions for themselves and for their health care," Yoder said. 

13News reached out to multiple pregnancy centers for this story. So far, none have responded.

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