Are Pregnancy Centers real medical clinics?
At some point, you have likely heard pregnancy centers like ours referred to as “Fake Clinics.” I don’t usually spill a lot of ink on this kind of outside criticism, because I don’t feel at all defensive about our work. The love we have for the people we serve speaks for itself.
Yet, this refrain – that pregnancy centers exist only to trick and manipulate women into keeping their babies by posing as medical clinics – has become so common, that I think it’s worth addressing directly. I want you who support this work to have clarity and confidence about who we are.
A few years ago, a campaign called “Expose Fake Clinics” launched, intending to use reviews online, media pressure, and other means to “end the deception.” For us, this resulted in a slew of fake reviews online that have persisted on and off for years, ramping up since the overturning of Roe. Sometimes, even those who might otherwise support our work have been influenced by this false narrative about who we are and what we do.
The three Pregnancy Resource Centers of First Image are, in fact, real medical clinics.
Yet, this particular criticism also reveals some things about how the pregnancy center movement has changed in the past 30 years, and how we have, or have not, talked about those changes.
PRC’s Have Come a Long Way
Pregnancy centers started in the very early 80s, and ours began in Gresham in 1984, as the 15th pregnancy center in the nation. That movement has now grown to an estimated 3,000+ centers.
At their inception, pregnancy centers mainly offered options counseling to women experiencing what we called “crisis pregnancies.” Some began as just a phone number a potentially pregnant woman could call.
The intention then, as it remains now, was to provide some hope into deeply challenging circumstances with the desire to see pre-born children live and mothers thrive.
As time went on other kinds of support were added. We provided free pregnancy testing in combination with options counseling, baby and maternity clothes, education, referrals for community resources, and so on. The “Crisis Pregnancy Center” movement was growing up. Working directly with the women who were at risk for abortion gave a clearer picture of the support they needed. Early on the focus was mainly on saving babies, as the movement was and is a response to the reality of abortion and our conviction that every person conceived is created in the Image of God. The movement became just as much about loving women. As the years passed, we learned that those things go hand in hand.
In the later 90’s, ultrasound technology came into the mix and some centers shifted to providing medical services. Today, not all, but most, are medical. Our Pregnancy Resource Centers received their first ultrasound machines in Portland in 2001.
At the point that pregnancy centers started to provide limited 1st and 2nd-trimester ultrasounds, they came under a new set of regulations and requirements. These regulations generally meant that pregnancy centers had to use trained professionals to perform ultrasounds (which are quite technical) and begin to work under the license of an advanced medical practitioner.
For the 22 years that we have been offering limited medical services, we have had an MD, currently an OBGYN, as our Medical Director, and a group of MDs who read and diagnose all ultrasound scans. Registered Nurses (we currently have five ultrasound nurses on staff) with specialized training perform all our ultrasounds.
Today, we also offer STD testing and treatment (three additional nurses focus on this), HCG blood tests for pregnancy verification when needed, and every client has a consultation with a nurse to review her medical concerns and direct her toward appropriate information and care. We follow HIPPA regulations to protect the personal health information of the people who come to us.
When we ask our clients what brought them to us, the top reasons are related to the medical services we provide them alongside the chance to talk with somebody about their options and available support.
All this to say, our clients have long viewed us as a free medical clinic, which is in fact, what we are. We follow the exact requirements that any other medical clinic in our state providing similar care must follow.
Still, we are always trying to take additional steps forward to provide better care to women and men in our city who are facing an unsupported pregnancy, especially those who are most at risk for abortion.
Our Next Steps
In the coming year, we will enhance our practices, staff, and facilities to advance the medical services we provide, so we can continue to be a trusted resource for thousands of people in our city every year.
As we continue to move forward in providing the best possible care to potential moms, dads, and pre-born children in our city, we remain totally committed to our Christian mission. We are here to demonstrate the life and love of Jesus to every person who comes through our door or connects virtually, by providing excellent care, education, practical, relational, and spiritual support for the whole person. A woman may come in for an ultrasound, but what she receives goes way beyond that.
“A woman may come in for an ultrasound, but what she receives goes way beyond that. “
Medical pregnancy centers are real medical clinics, but are also much more than that. Our hope for this coming season is to continue to see lives saved and transformed as we prayerfully seek to advance this work with confidence and courage in greater Portland. I also hope that you have the clarity and confidence to partner in the work and share about who we are and how we love the people God has called us to serve.
Your Fellow Follower,