"To have fewer abortions, stop subsidizing the lies"
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Tue Mar 20, 2007 at 02:45:48 AM EST
From the March 18 lead editorial in the Palm Beach Post.

To have fewer abortions, stop subsidizing the lies

Public money should not pay for fear-mongering 'crisis pregnancy centers' that peddle lies about fetal development, contraception and abortion.

Florida, like the federal government, spends millions each year supporting such centers, many of which are run by religious zealots who see abstinence-only as the only alternative to abortion and for whom scientific facts do not matter.
If reducing abortion is the goal, avoiding unwanted pregnancy is the way to reach that goal. That means investing in centers and schools that provide unbiased, medically accurate, comprehensive information about the benefits of delaying sexual intercourse and the availability of contraception to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Investing in fear and lies guarantees only more unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Women deserve much more than they're getting from state governments controlled by the religious right, and several Texas Democrats in the 80th Legislature are providing a template for making that happen -- in our state and all the others.

The Florida editorial details what is direly wrong with the services and "counseling" provided by CPCs funded as "alternatives to abortion."

[S]ome crisis pregnancy centers distribute pamphlets that falsely say the birth control injection Depo-Provera can cause abortion and that an 8-week-old developing baby swims, grasps with its hands, feels pain and has a heartbeat audible through ultrasound. Literature passed out at Birthline crisis center in Delray Beach also says an electrocardiogram can be done on an 8-week-old fetus. In fact, the heart does not have four developed chambers at that stage.

A report [pdf link]  released in July by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., found similar deception in "pregnancy resource centers" nationwide, with $30 million in federal money spent to support them. As Ms. Minor found in Palm Beach County, counselors at many crisis pregnancy centers condemn single women, use misleading and false descriptions of abortion, and attempt to link abortion to breast cancer and infertility when respected scientific researchers unequivocally deny such a risk.

This is the fetal development pamphlet mentioned in the editorial and in The New War on Abortion, a comprehensive article on CPCs published by the Palm Beach Post last week.  My own copy came from a CPC right here in North Texas -- and every "fact" it contains is a lie.  

Texas, like Florida, pours millions of tax dollars into supporting and promoting the mission of crisis pregnancy centers, many of which advertise pregnancy testing and ultrasound while operating entirely below the radar of government scrutiny. Unlike other agencies that receive public financial support and provide any type of medical service, CPCs get a free pass on both state and federal oversight and regulation.  

Last week's Fighting Evil, One Eve at a Time detailed the misinformation and outright lies contained in propaganda distributed by CPCs in Texas and across the country. This year, thanks to several state lawmakers, there is a chance to hold CPCs in Texas to a higher standard. Their bills could serve as a template for regulating the activities of federally supported CPC "ministries" in all 50 states.

Rep. Mike Villarreal's HB 2223 provides for long-overdue regulation of crisis pregnancy centers. The bill stipulates: "'Medically accurate information' means information supported by the weight of peer-reviewed research conducted in compliance with accepted scientific methods and recognized as accurate by leading professional organizations and agencies with relevant expertise in the field."

An agent of a crisis pregnancy center shall provide a  woman who is seeking counseling or information about pregnancy or abortion only with information the agent knows to be factually or medically accurate information.
        Sec. 172.004.  NOTICE. (a) A crisis pregnancy center shall prominently display on letter-size paper that is clearly visible from the area at which the center conducts intakes the following  notice:
        [Name of center] is not a medical facility.
        [Name of center] does not perform abortions or refer women for abortions.
        [Name of center] does not provide information on pregnancy prevention or refer women for pregnancy prevention.
        [Name of center] is not a licensed medical provider qualified to diagnose or accurately date pregnancy.
        [Name of center] is not licensed by the State of Texas.
        (b)  A crisis pregnancy center shall verbally provide the information in Subsection (a) to each person who requests services from the center before the center provides any services to the person.
        (c)  A crisis pregnancy center shall include a printed copy of the information in Subsection (a) with any material distributed  by the center.
        Sec. 172.005.  DISCIPLINARY ACTION. (a) A crisis pregnancy center that violates this chapter is ineligible to receive state funding.

Truth in advertising: what a concept.

From Rep. Senfronia Thompson and Sen. Rodney Ellis, HB 2878 and its identical companion bill, SB 1174, would require organizations providing "alternatives to abortion" to be licensed and inspected by the state and to demonstrate compliance with minimum standards.

Sec. 173.002.  LICENSE.
        (b)  An alternatives to abortion organization may not directly or    indirectly receive state money or other assistance unless the organization is licensed under this chapter.

        (c)  The application must contain evidence that:
              (1)  at least one health care practitioner is on the organization's    staff; or
              (2)  at least one licensed counselor is on the organization's staff.
(c)    The commission shall issue a license to the applicant  if, after inspection and investigation, it finds that the alternatives to abortion organization meets the requirements of this chapter and the standards adopted under this chapter.

Sec. 173.004.  INSPECTIONS. (a)  The commission may inspect  a licensed alternatives to abortion organization, or an applicant  for a license, at reasonable times as necessary to ensure compliance with this chapter.


Sec. 173.008.  MINIMUM STANDARDS.  (a)  The rules adopted under Section 173.007 must contain minimum standards for licensed alternatives to abortion organizations to protect the health and safety of a patient.


(a)    An alternatives to abortion organization may not reveal a patient's name or health information or any other identifying information without the patient's written consent.


Rep. Mark Strama (below left) and Sen. Kirk Watson (below right) are promoting the outlandish notion that there are better ways to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies than pretending that we don't know where babies come from.

HB 1842 and its Senate companion, SB 837, outline the requirements for a Texas Prevention First Act. The bills would create a statewide outreach campaign providing truthful, reality-based information about pregnancy prevention, and it's impossible to deny the benefits of such a program to the state in financial as well as human terms. These guys have really done their homework and crunched their numbers.

PURPOSES AND FINDINGS.  (a)  The goal of this bill is to decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in Texas.
        (b)  In 2003, 51.6 percent of the 374,836 total births in Texas were paid for by Medicaid. In other words, one out of every two births in Texas is paid for by Medicaid. ...
        (c)  For the state fiscal year 2003, the Texas Department of Health, the predecessor of the Department of State Health Services, found that the state's family planning program averted 193,502 pregnancies, for an estimated $472 million in cost savings. ...
        (d)  The projections for the Women's Health Program specifically show a cost savings of $467 million over the five-year demonstration timeline, $278 million in state savings and $189 million in federal savings, by reducing the number of Medicaid-paid births and associated costs. ...
        (e)  In addition to averted costs, Texas receives federal dollars at the highest possible matching ratio for all Medicaid. The federal government will pay $9 for every $1 of state funds spent on family planning services and supplies. ...
        (f)  According to the Department of State Health Services, in 2005, a total of 102,011 sexually transmitted disease cases, excluding HIV/AIDS, were reported in Texas.  At the end of 2005, approximately 67,629 AIDS cases have been reported in Texas. ...

Short version: it's past time that state government accepted the reality that "abstinence-only" sex education is killing us both literally and figuratively, while blighting the futures of our children. And it is insanity for states to de-fund family planning.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Gov. Matt Blunt said Monday he has yanked funding for two Planned Parenthood clinics that were providing free health screenings for poor women through a state program.
"Patients should not have to go to an abortion clinic to access lifesaving tests," Blunt said in a written statement.

But Planned Parenthood of Southwest Missouri said the clinics that participated in the program have never provided abortions.

Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson responded later that "philosophically Planned Parenthood is known as an abortion provider."
After gaining control of the Legislature, Republicans eliminated ... family planning grants from the 2004 budget and have kept them out.

A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman said, "Governor Blunt's sudden decision to cut a 15-year partnership to prevent cancer in southwest Missouri is a shocking, misguided act driven by political ideology rather than sound health care delivery."

Political ideology doesn't stop cancer in Texas, either. Rep. Harold Dutton intends to put a stop to that and other fairy tales.

Rep. Dutton's HB 2036 provides penalties "relating to the provision of certain services and information related to pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases." In other words, his bill penalizes "alternatives to abortion" organizations for lying.

Sec. 172.002.  LEGISLATIVE INTENT. It is the intent of the  legislature to ensure that each alternatives to abortion organization that directly or indirectly receives state money provides factually and medically accurate information to women seeking counseling or information about pregnancy or abortion and to encourage organizations to obtain the information from organizations such as the United States Food and Drug  
Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Medical Association, or the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Sec. 1702.004.  LICENSE REQUIRED.  (a)  An alternatives to abortion organization may not provide pregnancy counseling or information unless the organization is a health care facility licensed as required by rules adopted under this chapter or a facility operated under the direction of a licensed clinician or counselor ....
(b)    An individual may not provide pregnancy testing or counseling on behalf of an alternatives to abortion organization unless the individual has completed the appropriate training and performs the activities under the direct supervision of a licensed clinician or counselor ....

 INFORMATION PROHIBITED.  An agent of an alternatives to abortion  organization may not, with the intent to deter or delay a woman from having an abortion, provide a woman who is seeking counseling or  information about pregnancy or abortion with information the agent knows to be factually or medically inaccurate information.

        Sec. 172.006.  NOTICE. An alternatives to abortion organization shall provide written notice to each client on the client intake form and prominently display on the counter or desk at which the organization conducts intakes the following notice:
        (Name of organization) does not perform abortions or refer women for abortions.
        You are entitled to receive factual and medically accurate information. For more information, contact the Health and Human Services Commission (insert commission contact information).
        Complaints against (name of organization) may be filed with:
              (1)  the Health and Human Services Commission (insert  commission contact information); or
(2)    the Office of the Texas Attorney General (insert office contact information).
Sec. 1702.008.  AUDITS. The commission shall conduct site visits and periodic on-site program and financial audits of each alternatives to abortion organization that receives state funding.

This comprehensive bill -- which places far fewer restrictions and impositions on CPCs than already are required by law from all providers of abortion care -- would go far to prevent the use of state funding to pay for the deception and abuse of women. Focus on the Family is worried that a similar bill in Oregon could cause CPCs there to be "driven out of business." That is how much they fear the disinfecting power of sunlight.

Lawmakers who go up against the Christian right's political machine find that opposition can be a thankless task. A Democratic legislator in South Carolina openly admits that many politicians will vote for even the most coercive anti-choice bill because they are "afraid to vote against it." Here in Texas, payback from the religious right is well organized and brutal.

Bills such as these deserve the full support of any citizen -- pro-choice or simply pro-honesty -- who cares about responsible use of government funds, and they certainly merit the support of anyone who cares about women's health care.

In Florida, Oregon, South Carolina, Missouri, Texas or anywhere else, "to have fewer abortions, stop subsidizing the lies."

Title image by Kate Sutton for Bust Magazine

would be to follow the money. Because in Texas, the millions in state funding allocated to CPC support seem to be disappearing down a rathole.

by moiv on Tue Mar 20, 2007 at 02:48:20 AM EST

Supplying people with facts, not just religious rhetoric. It's such a simple thing to do and much more cost effective.

by LynneK on Tue Mar 20, 2007 at 10:11:54 AM EST

of the CPSs is that if they would actually provide what women in crisis so often need - referrals to employers who would hire a pregnant woman, assistance with emergency housing or help from domestic violence, emergency food assistance, day care help for older kids already born to the woman, etc. etc., they might actually assist some women who conclude that they need not terminate their pregnancy out of desperation. Blaming and shaming is the last thing someone needs when they are in crisis.

by marykk on Fri Mar 23, 2007 at 02:46:48 PM EST

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