A pro-life legal group has moved to quash a subpoena filed in New York’s Supreme Court in Manhattan by the state attorney general’s office, charging that the action seeks to “intimidate” and “stifle” the message of a crisis pregnancy and counseling center.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which specializes in pro-life litigation, filed its motion to have the subpoena dismissed on Thursday, claiming Attorney General Eliot Spitzer “failed to list any specific complaints against” its client, Expectant Mother Care, which has provided its counseling services for 17 years.
The subpoena seeks the names of staff and their credentials, training materials and copies of all policies and procedures pertaining to clients, the ACLJ said.
“The state of New York and the attorney general … are clearly engaged in a campaign to disrupt, discredit and harass the pro-life counseling centers in New York City,” said Vincent McCarthy, the group’s senior counsel. “The subpoena is designed to intimidate our client and stifle their pro-life message.”
But abortion-rights groups and Spitzer’s office, which launched its investigation of the centers in January, say the Expectant Mother Care facilities may be deceiving women. One allegation is that some centers mistakenly imply that they offer abortions, with the aim of identifying women who want them and seeking to change their minds.
“We’re not trying to shut down the centers,” Spitzer’s spokesman, Darren Dopp, told the Associated Press earlier this month. “We’re to bring them into compliance.”
Nevertheless, the ACLJ sees an agenda at work.
“This investigation is an attempt to eliminate the pro-life message and clearly violates the Constitution,” said McCarthy. “The attorney general cannot point to any advertisement that is deceptive, nor any activity which constitutes the unauthorized practice of medicine.”
In a statement, the ACLJ said Spitzer’s actions are part of a “politically motivated campaign which coincides with a strategy of the National Abortion Rights Action League to target crisis pregnancy centers.”
At a NARAL luncheon on Jan. 22, 1999, Spitzer promised to crack down on so-called “false advertisements” in pregnancy services.
Chris Slattery, who opened Expectant Mother Care in 1984 and now operates five centers, also sees a political motivation for the legal actions.
“In NARAL New York’s own literature are quotes giving themselves credit for helping elect Spitzer,” Slattery told WND.
“NARAL/NY was central to the narrow, yet critical, triumph by Eliot Spitzer in the race for attorney general,” said one of the group’s brochures. “NARAL/NY’s work to elect pro-choice Attorney General Spitzer resulted in the creation of the first-of-its-kind Reproductive Rights Unit to combat violence at health clinics.”
“The RRU is the same unit going after us,” Slattery said.
The NARAL/NY brochure also included a quote from Spitzer: “NARAL/NY was instrumental in my victory. They made a difference not only for me, but for candidates throughout the state who care about choice. NARAL/NY is an essential piece in the pro-choice movement – a voice of conscience, a voice of reason and a powerful part of New York.”
“This is a politically motivated witch hunt in an election year for Eliot Spitzer,” Slattery said, as he left the phone for a brief moment to take a call from a young woman seeking a pregnancy test.
He also discounted the attorney general’s contention that his centers were offering free abortions.
“We advertise free abortion alternatives,” he said. “Spitzer is misleading the public by claiming that we’re doing this.”
He said some of the actions are so petty as to be absurd.
In one case, he told WND, “I had the words, ‘FREE ABORTION’ on the top pane of my two-pane window in one of our offices, with the word ‘ALTERNATIVES’ on the bottom pane. They tried to tell us we were advertising for free abortions.
“I had all the words the same height, color and spaced the same,” he said.
Slattery also denied his centers were operating ultrasound machines and offering medical services without qualified personnel.
He said his clinic group’s lone ultrasonographer is licensed by the state and has completed “the required 18-month training program.” Also, he said two physicians “who end up delivering the babies” provide direct pregnancy care to clients.
“They make it sound like we have bums off the street delivering these babies and providing the prenatal care,” he said. “That’s absurd. Our doctors are even affiliated with major area hospitals. They better be qualified [to provide medical care].”
“EMC’s goals are to encourage expectant moms to choose motherhood, and either marriage, adoption or self-sufficiency, and to turn toward chaste lifestyles,” said the centers’ website. “EMC strives to offer high-quality prenatal care and, in the future, pediatrics through physician partnerships, on-site at most of its centers.”
Over the coming year, EMC said it expects to see over 4,200 new clients, of whom, based on past experience, 2,730 – or 65 percent – will be pregnant.