Pregnancy Centers Under Attack

The new year brings new fights for unborn life, especially on the front lines, where people try to help women in crisis pregnancies.

(photo: Shutterstock image)

WASHINGTON — While health-care reform legislation and other policies out of Washington in 2010 present new threats to unborn life, people who are working to give women alternatives to abortion are facing new obstacles.

The majority of obstacles are legislative, such as cuts to abstinence-education funding under the Obama administration, and governors’ vetoes of state-level pro-life legislation.

There are also new attempts to regulate crisis-pregnancy centers, such as a bill in New York City that has been held up in committee. New York Int. 0371-2010 would require each crisis-pregnancy center to disclose to clients that it does not provide “abortion or FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices and does not provide referrals to individuals or organizations that provide abortion or FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices.” That notification must be provided in writing, in English and Spanish, on at least one sign conspicuously posted in the entrance and any areas where individuals wait to receive services, as well as on its website and advertisements.

“Are other nonprofits forced to operate this way?” asked Theresa Bonopartis, who works with postabortive women in the New York metropolitan area. “The council, it appears, is more concerned with signs in CPCs than it is with regulating abortion businesses where women are injured and die from ‘safe, legal’ abortion.”

But such a law may not be limited to New York City. NARAL Pro-Choice America is hoping Congress will pass similar legislation nationwide.

A Woman’s Pregnancy Center, a pregnancy-resource center located near Florida State University and the State Capitol in Tallahassee, offers free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, counseling, adoption services and material assistance to women with unplanned pregnancies.

Director Barbara Shackelford said that compared to areas that are more militantly pro-abortion, she enjoys relative peace, but the peace has its limits.

“We’ve been accused of providing false information,” she said. “It’s unsubstantiated, but there are differences of opinion. We don’t emphasize the abortion-breast cancer link, but they camp out on that one, accusing us of scaring women with it.”

Like so many pregnancy-resource centers, Shackelford’s charges no one for services, a distinct contrast to Planned Parenthood, who, as the world’s largest abortion provider, has a financial interest in steering women to abort.

“If we can give a woman some valuable information that she may not have considered, it’s free of charge; we don’t care about insurance, and she doesn’t even have to give us her name,” she said. “Now, there was an ultrasound bill passed by both houses of the Florida Legislature, providing women in abortion clinics a chance to see the ultrasound before they decide to abort, but it was vetoed by Governor [Charlie] Crist. There was a lot of misinformation, claiming that it would cost pregnant women money. I think that’s our biggest opposition: bad press and misinformation.”

Kristen Hansen, a spokeswoman for Care Net, a Christian network of pregnancy centers, said that one of the biggest obstacles they face is the number of major medical bodies who have politicized the way they handle research about abortion risks: “This doesn’t prevent pregnancy centers from providing this information, but it is an issue that our opponents use to attack pregnancy centers and legislate against them.”

‘Scare Tactics’

Ironically, the day before this interview, the NBC affiliate in Greensboro, N.C., ran a story about accusations of “scare tactics” being used by the Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center to convince women not to have abortions. In particular, it was alleged that counselors there are perpetuating the “myth” of increased breast-cancer risk.

Hansen is undeterred. “Institutions like the National Cancer Institute claim that there is no potential for increased breast cancer after abortion. Our advisory board, however, says that medical experts continue to debate the association between abortion and breast cancer, and a number of reliable studies have concluded that there is an association between abortion and breast cancer.”

Care Net continues to provide this information in its brochures, in spite of the fact that the company is routinely criticized for it. Hansen points out that the American Psychological Association also claims that there is no increased risk of adverse mental-health effects after abortion, “however, many studies have shown this risk exists and that abortion is connected to clinical depression, drug and alcohol abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.”

Pat Kennedy, director of the Women’s Help Center in Jacksonville, Fla., doesn’t mind the criticism, considering that the center is located across the street from an abortion business.

“We can see it from our kitchen window,” Kennedy said. “There’s another one two blocks away and another less than a mile from here. We wanted to be here, in this vicinity, and girls come in all the time. This year, we’ve had 40 girls come to our center who were abortion-minded and placed their babies for adoption.”

Kennedy said that one of the abortion businesses posted a picture of her center on its window, warning prospective clients that Women’s Help Center would try to force them to have their babies. “Obviously, we’re not going to chain somebody to a chair and make them stay here for nine months,” she said.

Planned Parenthood Moles

Almost everyone interviewed said that they were harassed to some degree by “moles” from Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses coming in to spy on them and collect literature.

There is even a campaign by a group called the Feminist Majority Foundation to “expose fake clinics.” Claiming to be the world’s largest “pro-choice” student network, the Choices Campus Leadership Program warns that crisis-pregnancy centers or pregnancy-resource centers “advertise on your campus and in your community. They pose as comprehensive women’s health clinics and advertise under ‘abortion’ and ‘family planning’ services, but do not offer abortion services, contraception or referrals.”

CPCs, they claim, “often provide false information about abortion, birth control and the effectiveness of condoms for the prevention” of sexually transmitted disease and HIV. “Ultimately, their tactics delay or intimidate women from receiving comprehensive medical care. Fake clinics target college students by locating near campuses and advertising ‘free’ pregnancy tests. According to a 2008 survey by the Feminist Majority Foundation, 48% of responding campus health centers include CPCs on their referral lists for students facing unintended pregnancies.”

The campaign uses the term “fake clinic,” but none of the pregnancy-resource centers that were called for this story made any claim to be a clinic.

Joan Crown, respect life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Miami, said that the centers she works with make no attempt to hide their pro-life stance.

“We’ve always advertised that ‘We care about you and your unborn child’ and ‘We’re not going to send you for an abortion,’” she said. “We put it out there. To me, that’s a teaching moment.

“I know there are people out there who want to shut us down for giving away diapers and formula and cribs. If they want to come undercover into our centers and see what we do, I welcome them.”

Robert Kumpel writes from Valdosta, Georgia.