Pro-life pregnancy centers may have bigger problems on their hands than fire-setting, window-smashing vandals.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, is leading the charge for a federal clampdown on the centers, which typically offer services such as free counseling, pregnancy testing, baby supplies and parenting support, but not abortions or abortion referrals.
“These are deceptive outfits that front for groups that are trying to harass or otherwise frighten people who are pregnant to keep them from seeking an abortion, and they do so under the cover of pretending to offer abortion services,” Ms. Warren said at a Wednesday press conference in Boston, as reported by MassLive.
She and Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, have introduced a bill that would task the Federal Trade Commission with issuing and enforcing rules to “prohibit deceptive or misleading advertising related to the provision of abortion services.” Violators would be subject to fines.
Ms. Warren isn’t the only Democrat targeting the fast-growing facilities, which outnumber abortion clinics by an estimated 3 to 1, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court‘s decision last week overturning Roe v. Wade.
New York Attorney General Letitia James sent a letter Tuesday asking Google to exclude the centers from searches for “abortion,” saying “it appears that Google Maps often fails to distinguish between facilities that offer abortion services and those that do not.”
“With the expectation that New York will be seeing an increasing number of pregnant people from out of state seeking abortion services in our state — often traveling here at great financial cost and inconvenience—it is imperative that pregnant people are receiving accurate information and are able to obtain the medical services they need efficiently and with minimal confusion,” she said.
Meanwhile, pro-life advocates accuse Ms. Warren of stoking the recent wave of attacks. At least 37 pro-life offices and facilities have been vandalized since the draft opinion was leaked May 2, according to a CatholicVote map.
For example, Life Choices, a pro-life pregnancy center in Longmont, Colorado, sustained fire and smoke damage in a June 25 attack that included the spray-painted message “if abortions aren’t safe, neither are you.”
“Sen. Warren‘s calls for a ‘crack down’ will only fan the flames of violence against these nonprofits which have faced an unprecedented number of attacks since Justice Alito’s draft in the Dobbs case was leaked,” said Mallory Quigley, spokesperson for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
She said that in a given year, the nation’s 2,700 centers serve two million people, providing an estimated value of nearly $270 million by providing “high-quality medical care, material items such as diapers, formula, clothing, strollers, and more.”
They also offer classes on childbirth, lactation, parenting and nutrition, as well as help with job searches and GED tests, with an average client satisfaction rate of 99%, or “higher than Chick-fil-A, Netflix, Chipotle, or the iPhone,” she said.
“Senator Warren is willfully ignorant about the incredible work being done by pregnancy centers,” said Ms. Quigley in a statement.
Actress Patricia Heaton tweeted Wednesday that a pro-life pregnancy center she supports has had to hire armed security “because of people like @SenWarren.”
“Our medical pregnancy clinic serves client families for five years, providing superior services for anyone who asks. We raised $250K for a mobile medical clinic for underserved areas, treating everyone,” Ms. Heaton said.
Our medical pregnancy clinic serves client families for five years, providing superior services for anyone who asks. We raised $250K for a mobile medical clinic for underserved areas, treating everyone. Because of people like @SenWarren we now have to hire armed security. https://t.co/1cKPoeEU1I
— Patricia Heaton (@PatriciaHeaton) June 29, 2022
Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle said Ms. Warren‘s “unfounded assertions imputing deception and predation to pro-life pregnancy centers are recklessly counterfactual.”
“Pro-life centers offer women compassionate alternatives to abortion,” Mr. Doyle said. “They provide free testing, counseling and material aid to women facing difficult pregnancies. They try to locate housing for women who may be forced to move because of a decision to continue a pregnancy.”
Even so, claims of deception are on the rise. Ms. Warren linked to a June 22 article in TIME magazine about a Texas woman who accidentally visited a pro-life pregnancy center in Dallas, thinking it was an abortion provider.
The progressive group The Alliance issued a study saying that most centers in California “make false or biased medical claims, especially about pregnancy and abortion, including that ‘women suffer guilt, depression, and risk of substance abuse from ‘post abortion syndrome.’”
Some of the largest networks, including Heartbeat International and Care Net, make it clear on their websites that they don’t promote abortion and that their mission is to provide alternatives.
“The largest such center in eastern Massachusetts is Pregnancy Help Boston, which is a ministry of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston,” Mr. Doyle said. “It clearly states on its website that it does not perform or refer for abortions.”
Pro-life pregnancy centers date back to the 1970s, but their numbers have surged in recent decades. In some states, the centers outnumber abortion providers by as much as 11 to 1, according to the Warren press release.
The Alliance reported that in liberal California, the centers outnumber abortion clinics by 5:4. In New York, there are 120 centers versus about 70 abortion providers, as shown on a map by the pro-choice group Pro-Truth.
Foes of the pro-life centers have been energized by the high court‘s June 24 opinion, but so have their supporters.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said her group has created an interactive map that “helps women find their nearest pro-life pregnancy center” over concerns about her state’s relatively lenient abortion laws.
“Except for Virginia, all the states that border North Carolina have already become pro-life due to Heartbeat bills or Trigger laws they passed,” she said in a Friday statement. “Unless we do something about it, North Carolina will become the largest abortion destination in the South, possibly tripling the number of abortions taking place in our state.”
Ms. Fitzgerald added: “We CANNOT allow our state to become the abortion destination of the South!”
The Warren bill is backed by a host of pro-choice groups, including Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.