National Catholic Register

Commentary

Defending Crisis Pregnancy Centers

BY JENNIFER ROBACK MORSE

July 23 - August 5, 2006 Issue | Posted 7/23/06 at 10:00 AM

 

The abortion lobby must be desperate. They evidently feel threatened by little old ladies who give away free baby clothes to women in crisis pregnancies.

The abortion lobby’s latest hyperventilation, a campaign calmly titled, “Crisis Pregnancy Centers: An Affront to Choice,” launches a very unsubtle, non-nuanced broadside against crisis pregnancy centers.

After reading a few of the headlines of news stories dutifully publishing abortion lobby press releases, I decided to take a look at the study myself, to see if there was any substance to their claims.

There isn’t.

The study is nothing more than a collection of outrageous whining by the National Abortion Federation.

Crisis pregnancy centers (sometimes abbreviated CPCs) arose in response to Roe v. Wade, which did much more than legalize abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. The Supreme Court told people who believed that life begins at conception that there was no place for them in the political process. They no longer had an opportunity to place their views before the legislature for consideration. They did not lose a political competition after a fair fight: They were ordered off the playing field.

Many people who believe abortion is wrong also believe doing wrong creates harm for the person who does it. They realized that the only way to reduce the number of abortions would be to try to talk individual women out of having abortions. So those who were politically disenfranchised by Roe v. Wade turned their energies toward the private, voluntary sector and tried to make the decision for life as easy and as appealing as possible for women in crisis pregnancies.

There are now more than 4,000 crisis pregnancy centers across the country. Most are staffed by (mostly female) volunteers and funded entirely by donations. These centers vary tremendously in their services and sophistication. Many are small but earnest: Little old ladies give away baby clothes and show pregnant women plastic models of fetal development. Other centers are full-scale medical clinics with doctors on staff. These facilities provide prenatal care, labor and delivery, well-baby visits, parenting classes and, of course, free baby clothes. This variety is exactly what you would expect from a network of volunteer organizations that arise spontaneously in response to an important social need.

So what is the abortion lobby’s beef? Crisis pregnancy centers mislead and therefore harm, pregnant women. Let’s go through their arguments.

Crisis pregnancy centers choose locations close to abortion providers.

Women become confused by the close proximity of a crisis pregnancy center and an abortion provider. That’s called competition. Besides, the abortion lobby has been telling us for years that women are in complete command of themselves at all times. The abortion lobby thinks even a 13-year-old “woman” is considered competent enough to choose for herself, without any parental guidance. And now, the National Abortion Federation tells us that these poor hapless women can’t even find their way across the parking lot and into the correct building.

These centers target women in low-income neighborhoods.

Wait a minute: Crisis pregnancy centers are not “targeting” low-income women any more than the abortion industry is targeting them. It is tacky in the extreme for the abortion lobby to whine about these centers locating near abortion clinics, and at the same time to complain that the centers “target” poor and minority women.

Crisis pregnancy centers tell women that abortion will harm them, and this is not true.

Actually, it is the abortion lobby that misleads people on this score. They claim that no one is ever significantly impacted by abortion, either emotionally or physically. It only takes one counter-example to disprove such an extreme claim. Even a single woman who regrets her abortion falsifies the claim that no one is ever hurt.

The abortion lobby claims that post-abortion trauma doesn’t exist. If that is the case, why are counseling programs like Rachel’s Vineyard filled to capacity weekend after weekend with women seeking healing from their abortions? Are all these women deceived about their own experiences? Surely, women are entitled to hear that there are some risks involved, and consider whether these risks might apply to them.

The centers trick women into signing adoption papers.

The evidence for this claim is a couple of 10-year-old court cases. The abortion lobby has no basis for the outrageous charge that crisis pregnancy centers systematically deceive women into giving up their babies for adoption.

There are more crisis pregnancy centers than there are abortion centers.

There are over more than 4,000 such centers nationwide, and only 2,000 abortion clinics.

And this is a problem why, exactly? These centers represent somebody’s heart-and-soul commitment to the cause of helping women in crisis pregnancies. While there are a few networks, most are small, free-standing centers, run by volunteers. By contrast, Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortion services, is a multi-million-dollar chain.

Tell me: Which is the grassroots network and which is the corporate conglomerate?

These centers get government money for abstinence programs.

“Public federal funding of CPCs began in 1996 when the welfare reform law allocated $50 million to Title V abstinence-only education programs, which some states make available to CPCs,” according to “An Affront to Choice.”

They do not mention that Planned Parenthood International gets many times that amount. According to a Government Accountability Office report, Planned Parenthood International and other family planning organizations received $225 million in fiscal 2001 alone.

Crisis pregnancy centers are financed and supported by religious organizations.

What exactly are people of faith supposed to do: Roll over and play dead and pretend this issue doesn’t matter? And by the way, a woman going to an abortion alternatives center can hardly be surprised that many people there are religious. You’d have to be living in a cave for the last 30 years to be unaware that the pro-life movement has deep religious roots.

The abortion lobby also complains about private funding of crisis pregnancy centers, mentioning by name Gary Heavin, the CEO of Curves for Women health clubs. They conveniently forget to mention the millions of large foundation dollars contributed to family planning in general and Planned Parenthood in particular. The Ford Foundation, the Packard Foundation, Ted Turner, Bill Gates and now Warren Buffet contribute to population control, including abortion. Ted Turner can give billions, but Gary Heavin is suspect?

“An Affront to Choice” is itself an affront to the millions of choices women and men have made to contribute their time and treasure to the cause of helping women choose life.

Jennifer Roback Morse is a senior research fellow in economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, and the author most recently of Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-up World.