Crisis Pregnancy Centers: Beacons of Light in Horrific Darkness

Aug 13th, 2011 | By | Category: Ethics, Featured Issues

The city of San Francisco has declared war on crisis pregnancy centers in the Bay Area.  The first element of attack is a bill introduced to the city?s Board of Supervisors that would make it illegal for such centers to advertise falsely about their pregnancy-related services.  Although California law already bans deceptive advertising, Malia Cohen, the bill?s author, argued that the bill was necessary to protect low-income women drawn to such centers because of the free services offered there.  She said, ?We have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable residents,? and she accused crisis pregnancy enters of promoting ?anti-abortion propaganda and mistruths on unsuspecting women.?  The second element of attack is from the San Francisco city attorney, Dennis Herrera, who has written a local center, called First Resort, about its advertisements, which, he said, ?appear to be designed to confuse or mislead consumers.?  Herrera, a Democrat and candidate for mayor, declared his distaste for the crisis pregnancy center movement as ?right wing, politically motivated? institutions whose mission is ?to dissuade women from seeking their constitutionally protected rights.?  In fact, First Resort is clear that its mission is to offer ?counseling and medical care to women who are making decisions about unplanned pregnancies.?  Shari Plunkett, director of First Resort, stated that all their clients had ?full disclosure on the types of services we provide.  We treat women with dignity and respect and respect their right to choose.?  Such an attack on the crisis pregnancy center moment is not isolated to San Francisco.  This summer, New York City attempted something similar but in July a federal judge barred the ordinance that would have mandated that such centers state explicitly whether they offer abortions and whether they had licensed medical providers on staff.  [Another federal judge struck down a similar ordinance in Baltimore.]  How should we think about such attempts to stifle the work of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in America?

There is a fairness and equity issue when it comes to such ordinances.  If local governments are successful in mandating that specific items be listed in promotional and advertising, then such cities must also mandate that abortion facilities clearly post that their primary business is abortion.  Further, to say that crisis pregnancy centers engage in ?anti-abortion propaganda? is silly and more politically motivated than the charge itself.  Can anyone who is intellectually honest declare that Planned Parenthood is not engaged in propaganda?  It is ?left-wing? and ?politically motivated.?  If one is truthful, Planned Parenthood is one of the most propagandistic of all reproductive clinics in America.  What is most upsetting to organizations such as Planned Parenthood and their political allies is that CPCs are now successfully utilizing sophisticated ultrasound technologies to show pregnant women the babies growing inside their wombs.  Once a woman sees her baby, the chances of that baby being born are enhanced.  Furthermore, the typical CPC offers a variety of services, ranging from counseling and adoption services to medical care and support for new mothers.  In an article in the New York Times on CPCs and the efforts of city governments to stifle them, there is this lead sentence:  ?Seeking to stem what they call misleading advertising, San Francisco offices on Tuesday began a two-pronged attack on ?crisis pregnancy centers,? which are billed as places for pregnant women to get advice, but often use counseling to discourage abortions.?  Theologian Albert Mohler observes correctly:  ?Look carefully at that sentence.  The conjunction ?but? is intended to contrast the phrases linked together.  Thus McKinley [the NYT reporter] writes that the crisis pregnancy centers ?are billed as places for pregnant women to get advice,? but they ?often use counseling to discourage abortion.?  In other words, he insinuates that if crisis pregnancy centers ?use counseling to discourage abortions,? they are not ?places for women to get advice.?  Evidently, the only acceptable ?advice? is counseling that encourages a woman to abort the baby within her.?  McKinley?s article is hardly an objective analysis of the CPC movement.  For years, my wife and I have supported our local CPC in Metro Omaha.  Many lives have been saved through this ministry and it is abhorrent that several major cities are trying to stifle and curtail the CPCs across this nation.  The CPC movement stands for the sanctity of life, the defense of the unborn and the right of free speech.  San Francisco, New York City and Baltimore should be ashamed of themselves.

See Jesse McKinley in the New York Times (3 August 2011) and (5 August 2011). PRINT PDF

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