Crisis pregnancy centers (also called pregnancy resource centers) are non-profit organizations that claim to provide women with information about pregnancy, birth control, abortion and other related concerns. However, as studies conducted on these organizations have shown, these facilities frequently disseminate false medical information and have engaged in dubiously ethical behaviors such as refusing to refer women to healthcare providers. Women who made adverse decisions about their pregnancies based on misinformation obtained from crisis pregnancy centers or were forced to delay taking action because of something the staff members did may wonder if it possible to sue the facility for compensation for damages sustained?
You can sue anyone for anything in America. Whether or not you will win your case, however, is another matter. To prevail in court against a crisis pregnancy center, you have to show the facility had a duty to provide you with accurate information or behave in a certain manner.
Surprisingly, this can be difficult to do. Although these centers bill themselves as health clinics, very few are run by licensed healthcare providers or have them on staff. In fact, the vast majority are operated by volunteers who may not have any medical training or licensing at all. This means they are not obligated to adhere to laws that require medical professionals to provide correct and medically sound information to patients or treat them according to established standards of care.
In fact, very few states have laws regulating crisis pregnancy centers. Part of that may be because the majority of these facilities are run by religious organizations, which brings First Amendment concerns into the mix. Additionally, because they are non-profit organizations that don't take money from patients, these facilities may not be required to adhere to commercial speech laws that prohibit businesses and organizations from using misleading or false speech in their advertising and dealings with customers.
Possible Avenues for Lawsuits
That doesn't mean, however, that crisis pregnancy centers are completely immune from lawsuits. You could sue the facility on the basis of fraud. There are three types that may apply to your situation:
- Intentional misrepresentation – This is when a person represents a fact as true when the individual knows it is false (e.g. claiming abortion causes cancer when no such link has been found).
- Concealment – The person willfully hides important information, leading an individual to be deceived (e.g. failing to disclose detected fetal abnormalities during a sonogram).
- False promise – The person promises to provide information or take an action that's critical to the transaction but has no intention of following through (e.g. promising to call when results of the pregnancy test are available and not doing so).
If the person's fraudulent deed leads you to take an action that you otherwise wouldn't have or results in an undesirable outcome, then you may have a case for damages. For example, a doctor recounts that a crisis pregnancy center interfered with her patient's ability to get a safe abortion by making the woman undergo unnecessary ultrasounds and lying. By the time the woman received appropriate medical advice and care from a licensed professional, it was too late for her to terminate her pregnancy. In this situation, the woman may have a case for fraud as well as wrongful birth.
You may also be able to use the statutes for negligence to obtain compensation for damages sustained due to the action of a crisis pregnancy center. Negligence is defined as failing to take reasonable care to prevent another party from being harmed. This failure can result from the direct action or the lack of action by the offending party.
For instance, a woman visits a center to obtain confirmation of her pregnancy so she can apply for government benefits. However, the center refuses to give her with an official notice to submit to the appropriate agency, resulting in her losing those benefits. The woman may be able to sue the center for damages stemming from the staff member's refusal to provide that information.
However, in the case of negligence, you must prove that the pregnancy resource center had a duty of care, meaning the party was obligated to act in a certain manner but failed to do so. As noted previously, this may be challenging to do for the reasons outlined. Still, if you feel you were harmed by the actions of a crisis pregnancy center, it's best to click to read or consult with an attorney to determine the best way to proceed with your case so you can obtain a judgment in your favor.