NYT gets it wrong on "crisis pregnancy centers"
Esther Kaplan printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 03:15:24 PM EST
Yesterday the New York Times treated us to a touching A1 story about "crisis pregnancy centers" and the grass roots anti-abortion movement. "The women in [these groups]," writes John Leland, "are far from the public battles over abortion laws and the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. But in their quiet way, they represent a dimension of the anti-abortion movement that is just as passionate and far-reaching, consisting not of protesters or political activists but of Christian therapy groups, crisis pregnancy centers, adoption ministries, and support programs for single mothers and their children." Fine, as far as it goes. But Leland soft pedals these groups' history of fraud and fails to mention the extremely critical role the Bush administration has played in propping up these groups, channeling millions in federal grants their way.
Well into the story, Leland mentions that crisis pregnancy centers "have long been criticized" for posing as health clinics to lure in women seeking abortions, only to present them with inaccurate information to scare them into carrying their pregnancies to term. And he notes that "courts have limited the terms they can use to pitch their services." But as the NARAL Foundation's May 2005 report, The Truth About Crisis Pregnancy Centers, documents, centers in New York, Ohio, Louisiana, and California have faced injunctions and other legal action to stop their practices of fraud and deception.

"CPCs may list themselves in the yellow pages of phone directories under the headings `abortion,' `abortion alternatives,' `abortion services,' `family planning information centers,' or `women's organizations' even though the only `abortion service' they provide is anti-abortion persuasion," reads the NARAL report. One crisis pregnancy center training manual explicitly encourages staffers to hide their pro-life ideology from inquiring callers. Another refers to pregnant girls as potential "killers" and described the centers as engaged in a fight against Satan. Pregnant women and girls who are drawn into these centers are typically shown gory videos of late-term aborted fetuses and told lies about the consequences of abortion--that they will end up with breast cancer, sterile, depressed, or dead.

Leland says there are now up to 3,500 of these centers nationwide (though he fails to cite a source for this data, I suspect he's relying on potentially overblown numbers from Focus on the Family and other pro-life groups). Yet he's oblivious to the fact that Bush administration largesse is a chief factor in this growth. As I document in my book, With God on Their Side, Bush's abstinence-only initiative has become a gravy train for these deceptive centers, many of whom, with no legitimate background in health education or sex education, have become leading grant recipients. In 2001, Health and Human Services gave $1.1 million to at least four crisis pregnancy centers. In 2002, that number rose to $2.2 million and at least seven centers. In 2003, the grants totaled $2.8 million to at least six crisis pregnancy centers--or one in every five grantees. And so on.

And though the federal government doesn't track which groups receive federal abstinence dollars through block grants to the states, a glance at the Tennessee record echoes the pattern at HHS: five of that state's 22 federally funded abstinence programs are at crisis pregnancy centers, or nearly one of every four grantees. These abstinence grants have taken small, volunteer-run organizations and turned them into substantial institutions; one crisis pregnancy center in Boston, A Woman's Concern, received a $488,000 grant that allowed the group to bump its staff up from two to 12. "Basically," says Adrienne Verrilli, a spokesperson for the sex education group SIECUS, "they have created an industry."

...came out from the Alan Guttmacher Institute in May 2002: Crisis Pregnancy Centers Seek to Increase Political Clout, Secure Government Subsidy, which includes more useful details on the role of taxpayer dollars in propping up this "grass roots" movement.

by Esther Kaplan on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 04:10:45 PM EST

Could not be any better timed. It fits beautifully in with moiv's piece today.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 05:05:07 PM EST
Yes, moiv's post is great, especially the links he offers to crisis pregnancy center warnings about the trumped-up risks of abortion. (Somehow the risks of childbirth, far more serious, never merit a mention from these folks...)

by Esther Kaplan on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 07:28:21 PM EST

Just noticed Jeff Sharlet also offered up a critique of the Leland article at The Revealer; he makes the important point that the insidious "we care for women" mantra of the crisis pregnancy centers is part of a strategic effort by the pro-life movement to shift the blame from women to doctors, already the constant target of threats and violence.

by Esther Kaplan on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 07:40:12 PM EST
Doctors have long been a target of the anti-abortion movement for ages -- think of all the bombings and murders.  

The shift to 'caring about women' is a public relations shift away from caring solely about the fetus. The idea can probably be credited to David Reardon of the Elliot "Institute" which has come out with many unscientific studies on how women are harmed by having an abortion.  

It is a strategy for both anti-abortion fever and evangelism.

This is from in interview with Father Pavone of Priests for Life in the 1990s.  The whole thing is:

P: ...Can you talk a little bit more about how your work has led you to develop a strategy for the pro-life movement which in many ways is new.

R: On the political side we have kind of fallen in to the trap set up by the other side: a choice between helping the baby or helping the woman. Whose rights are more important, the baby or the woman? That's a false dichotomy. God joined woman and child together in such a way that to help one you have to help the other, if you hurt one you are going to hurt the other. It's unavoidable.

So we have to be much more vocal in expressing that we care about women not only before they have an abortion when they are pregnant. We care about them after they have had an abortion. We care about women. We want to protect them. If they are going to have an abortion and nobody can stop them, we want to protect them from the abuses of the abortion industry. We've got to show the American people that we are more pro-woman than the pro-abortionists...that we care more about them and their babies. And so I use the analogy that a marathon runner couldn't win a race breathing only with one lung. And sometimes the pro-life movement breathes with one lung for the baby -- but we need to breath with both lungs. One lung for the baby, one for the woman. Together they are a package and we have to care about both.

Now we are kind of actually in a situation where we have to play catch-up. We have focused so much on the baby before -- and I am not saying that we shouldn't focus on the baby or that we shouldn't talk about it -- sometimes people misconstrue what I say and think I am saying we should only talk about the women. No that is not it at all. But actually as we help women find healing, they are going to be far more effective talking for their babies than I am. I can talk about the scientific facts that a heart beats at three weeks and certainly that's true, but what is more important, what converts hearts better, is when a woman or a man who lost a baby says "my baby died in that abortion."

....So as we educate them about how abortion hurts women, it changes the whole equation in their minds. Their heart can soften now. This is why even pictures of aborted babies -- people harden their hearts to it because "I have already made up my mind, I'm for the woman." And so we have got to talk on what they are concerned about, the woman ... and help them see, well, don't you at least agree we should protect women from being pressured in unwanted abortions? Well yeah. Well shouldn't we make sure that women are screened for risk factors so they don't end up being hurt afterwards? Well yeah. So we can move them along slowly. And in that process their heart will thaw and they become more concerned about the women.

And on evangelizing:

There is so much joy after mourning and through the healing and coming back into the Church, and receiving the Sacraments with joy, and being free of the secret.

And so there is a tremendous opportunity and I think it is a great evangelization opportunity for the Church.

by cyncooper on Wed Jan 18, 2006 at 06:22:46 PM EST

The whole crisis pregnancy movement is so patronizing of women, treating them as if they are children who can't possibly know what they are doing, and so others with "better" judgment will just lead them on, even if it means lying.  Would the NYT be so gentle if it were men who had a health care issue and were being flagrantly lied to by untrained religious personnel?  

by cyncooper on Wed Jan 18, 2006 at 06:29:40 PM EST

But there are many people who seem to accept the curious notion that a woman's IQ decreases in inverse proportion to her serum levels of hCG.

A woman here in Texas might have a Ph.D., but Rick Perry and the state legislature have decreed that if her EPT turns positive, she suddenly needs a CPC to do her thinking for her.  It's illegal for a doctor to provide her with an abortion until 24 hours after she has been provided with the state's "Resource Directory" listings for 183 CPCs.

by moiv on Wed Jan 18, 2006 at 08:51:44 PM EST

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