An investigation of crisis pregnancy centers by New York state’s top law officer could lead to the demise of the nationwide movement, according to anti-abortion activists.
Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer issued subpoenas to three New York City-area centers, which are among the 3,000 non-profit, mostly Christian-based groups that help pregnant women find alternatives to abortion.
WorldNetDaily acquired a copy of a subpoena served to the Cross Road Foundation of Staten Island that states that the Attorney General believes the group has violated state law by “misrepresenting the services they provide” and “diagnosing and advising persons on medical options” without a license.
In the worst scenario, the case could set a legal precedent that would shut down the entire crisis pregnancy center movement, said Chris Slattery, director of Expectant Mother Care, a counseling service with five sites in New York City.
“The heart and soul of the pro-life movement is threatened by this,” Slattery told WorldNetDaily, “because if they come up with this neat conclusion that the lay counselors are incompetent, or too dangerous to counsel women, then most centers will not be able to afford to pay professionals or to get enough of them to volunteer.”
The subpoena to the Cross Road Foundation includes demands for names of staff and their credentials, training materials and copies of all policies and procedures pertaining to “client referrals you make for medical, counseling, social or other services.”
Slattery insists that while most of the volunteers may not be medically trained, they are compassionate people who are qualified to help women make important choices.
“Face it, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to communicate with a young expectant mother who’s a high school dropout, to talk to her about her future and her life,” he said.
“We’re going to fight back with tenacity now,” he said. “We’re tired of being treated like rogues when we’re livesavers. We save more lives than the New York City Fire Department and the police put together in a typical year. And that should deserve commendation instead of being condemned.”
He estimates that annually about 2,000 mothers in the area are persuaded to not have an abortion.
Slattery believes that Spitzer is marching in step with the Washington, D.C.-based National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, a leading advocate of abortion rights.
In a January 1999 speech to NARAL leaders in New York City, Spitzer, a Democrat, outlined his plan for a special “reproductive rights unit” within the state’s Bureau of Civil Rights. The new unit, formed later that year, was dedicated to “ensuring that women have unfettered access to reproductive services,” Spitzer said.
Last year, the unit tried to intervene in the proposed merger of a Catholic hospital with a nonsectarian hospital, arguing that this would result in a loss of access to abortion by the community. But Spitzer was rebuffed by an appeals court.
In his 1999 speech to NARAL, Spitzer promised that the unit would “address matters such as false advertisements for services … by opponents of reproductive rights.”
On its website, NARAL charges that crisis pregnancy centers “use deceptive tactics and misinformation to pressure women to carry their pregnancies to term.”
NARAL says that “anti-choice activists have mobilized on a grass-roots level to restrict access to abortion by setting up ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ around the country. These fake clinics seek to attract women faced with unintended pregnancies who are ‘at risk’ for abortion.”
Slattery said that in the mid-80s, many of the centers were advertising as “clinics” but legally were forced to stop. In the Yellow Pages, the centers are listed under the heading of “Abortion Alternatives” along with a disclaimer warning that the listed organizations do not provide abortion services or referrals.
But NARAL complains that the pregnancy center listings come before “Abortion Providers,” and “a woman faced with a crisis pregnancy may not notice such a disclaimer or may still be undecided about whether to carry the pregnancy to term.”
In 1993, NARAL notes, Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher found that five crisis pregnancy centers in the state “violate the law by advertising themselves as clinics when they are not medical facilities, provide no medical services, and have no doctors on staff.”
NARAL contends that many women have been deceived by the centers. The group cites the experience of a woman, Hildee C. Robinson, at a Delaware crisis pregnancy center 11 years ago. Robinson said she “was angry and felt like I had been duped” by the center.
“There was no hint in the newspaper or on signs outside their building indicating that this was a pro-life organization,” she said. “If I had known, I would have never gone there. The experience of seeing those horrible slides (showing pictures of dead babies) was devastating.”
Slattery said the pregnancy centers do show graphic images designed to shock, but the intent is to demonstrate reality. Expectant Mother Care also has a 3-D sonogram that gives vivid images of a child in the womb.
“We have heart-to-heart talks with these mothers, and some of them get angry, and they demand their abortions, and some of them storm out,” he said. “This is not a pretty world we’re in. When you’re dealing with 100,000 women aborting in this city, these are not pillow talks, OK. This is a battle for lives and souls.”
Many centers have an exceptionally high customer satisfaction rating. Rep. Bob Schaffer, R-Colo., has introduced a bill that commends the work of centers across the country.
But the centers are just one of many fronts upon which the “anti-choice” movement is operating, insists Linda Robayo, spokesperson for the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York City.
“Groups from the far right are … trying to alter constitutional rights based on religious and political views,” she maintained.