Federal Bill Puts Crisis Pregnancy Centers in the Crosshairs

Pro-life pregnancy centers, which focus on providing free resources and information to women in crisis pregnancies to allow them to keep their babies, are facing a new attack from pro-abortion groups, and this time through Congress.

U.S. Rep. Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) are sponsoring a bill that would demand the Federal Trade Commission to develop advertising rules that would restrict the ability of pro-life pregnancy centers to reach out to women with crisis pregnancies.

Maloney’s “Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women’s Services Act” (H.R. 2478) purports to stop “any person from advertising with the intent to deceptively create the impression that such person is a provider of abortion services if such person does not provide abortion services.”

“This bill is not at all what it sounds like,” said Joe Young, President of Heartbeat International, which is an association of more than 1100 pregnancy help centers, maternity homes, non-profit adoption agencies, pregnancy help medical clinics and abortion recovery programs in 50 countries.

“Pregnancy centers are reducing the number of abortion sales and this aggravates the abortion industry. A more accurate name for this bill might be ‘Stop Alternatives to Abortion Advertising to Pay Back the Abortion Industry Act.’ This is an attempt to prevent women who deserve choices from connecting with pregnancy help centers.”

Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF) charged that most CPCs “do not offer comprehensive reproductive health care options or medically accurate information.”

But Heartbeat International says that its affiliates have pledged to uphold the “Commitment of Care and Competence,” which is the set of operating principles CPCs abide by. This commitment requires that all advertising and client communications be truthful and accurately describe the services offered – namely, providing accurate information about pregnancy, fetal development, abortion procedures and risks, lifestyle issues, and related concerns.

Based upon the recent actions of NARAL, it would appear that the abortion group is much more interested in shutting CPCs down, period, than simply stopping what they call “deceptive” advertising. NARAL recently sent a letter to YellowPages.com and SuperPages.com, asking the phone directories to remove all advertisements for CPCs.

Heartbeat pointed out that one of the “deceptive” practices that NARAL Virginia has accused CPCs of using was a roadside billboard reading “Pregnant? Need help? Call 800-395-HELP.” This was deemed deceptive because the women answering the phone for the helpline do not recommend abortion.

Crisis pregnancy centers have been under vigorous sustained assault in recent years for providing women alternatives to abortion. Abortion advocates have been especially furious that CPCs would install themselves in the same neighborhoods as abortion clinics, or even right across from them.

Joan Malin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, emphasized this point when she complained that CPCs were “deliberately confus[ing] women by establishing themselves near legitimate reproductive health care centers.  These fake clinics have opened in close proximity to our Brooklyn and Bronx centers, misleading clients seeking the unbiased care that Planned Parenthood provides.”

“Planned Parenthood knows that women are completely capable of making the best decision for themselves and their families – without coercion, intimidation or lies,” she added.

Pro-lifers, however, have pointed out the irony of Planned Parenthood charging CPC’s with not providing “accurate” information. “Coercion, intimidation, and lies” (in the words of PP New York CEO Malin) are at the very heart of a crisis of credibility that Planned Parenthood has experienced in recent years.

A series of sting operations conducted by pro-life journalists with a group called Live Action have revealed that on numerous occasions Planned Parenthood employees have engaged in grossly unethical practices such as giving clients medically inaccurate information about fetal development, advising minors how to bypass the state’s parental consent laws, or even assisting minors in obtaining an illegal abortion that would cover up statutory rape.

CPCs, on the other hand, have had to deal with the problem of abortion clinics posing as places that offer “abortion alternatives.” In 2006, Expectant Mother Care-EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers filed suit against “Dr. Emily’s” abortion facilities with sites in the Bronx and downtown Brooklyn, because it was using “Abortion Alternatives” advertising to bring women into their abortuaries.

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