By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
Representatives of pregnancy care centers across the state and nation are speaking out to defend the non-profit organizations in the wake of a NARAL Pro-Choice NC Foundation report attacking their integrity and insisting on the need for increased government constraints.
The NARAL release, based on a nine-month study by NPCNCF staff and volunteers, claimed the centers are giving false information, posing as medical facilities and using “manipulative tactics.” It further castigated centers for employing “biblically-based arguments to encourage people to refrain from sex until marriage,” and accused the organizations of targeting minority women and purposely locating near colleges and universities.
But Bobbie Meyer, director of Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, called parts of the report “blatantly untrue,” including the assertion that Pregnancy Care Centers (PCCs) are trying to pass themselves off as full-fledged medical clinics.
“The services of some of our centers are medical in nature, and 23 of them have volunteer medical directors,” Meyer said. “Some offer limited obstetrical ultrasounds to determine the gestational age of the baby. If anything seems unusual, the client is referred to the emergency room or to a physician outside of the pregnancy center.”
The NARAL study referred to center staff wearing white lab coats “like those worn by doctors and nurses in hospitals and clinics,” but Meyer said in all her visits to centers she has never seen anyone in scrubs or a white coat except a nurse.
She also questioned how NARAL came up with its count of 122 centers in North Carolina.
“There are 76 pregnancy care organizations in North Carolina, five of which have satellite locations for a total of 81,” Meyer said. She said women who come to the centers are treated “kindly and fairly,” and that volunteers are trained to present accurate information about pregnancy and about abortion risks.
“Can I say that every volunteer in every center is going to say everything exactly right? No, but a vast majority of them use the information sensitively as they are trained,” Meyer added. “The truth is the abortion industry doesn’t want women to think that abortion is anything except a very safe and easy procedure and that when it’s over, it’s over. But this is a serious choice with a result that may or may not be very detrimental for the rest of their life.”
While the NARAL report chastised centers for mentioning post-abortion stress, a study released last month shows women who have an abortion face increased risks for mental health problems including substance abuse, anxiety and depression. The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, showed women who had an abortion were 34 percent more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, 37 percent more likely to experience depression, 110 percent more likely to abuse alcohol, 155 percent more likely to commit suicide, and 220 percent more likely to use marijuana.
“These are the kinds of studies that the abortion industry doesn’t want women to know about, and it’s this type of information that they will get at a pregnancy care center,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Plus, they will also find out that they are not alone and that there are resources and services available to them so that they do have a choice and shouldn’t feel pressured to abort.”
North Carolina PCCs served more than 25,000 clients last year offering a variety of services from pregnancy and STD testing to ultrasounds, parenting classes, baby supplies and mentoring.
Although the NARAL report said some pregnancy care centers inaccurately portrayed a link between breast cancer and abortion, Meyer said there are studies on both sides of that issue and that materials provided to women at the centers are referenced and documented with footnotes.
As for the criticism that the centers are locating in areas with high populations of minorities and college students, Meyer said national affiliates Heartbeat International and Care Net had made no secret of the fact that as early as 2005 they began urging new PCCs to locate in urban areas where the need for pregnancy care is greatest, focusing on neighborhoods where “poverty is rampant and alternatives are few.”
She made no apologies for the fact that PCC volunteers often share the Gospel with clients.
“We are Christian ministries, and our hearts’ desire is that women who come to us have an opportunity to see that in action and to be treated as Jesus would treat them,” she said. “What we try to do is open the conversation and explore where she is coming from in her own spiritual journey, listen respectfully and then ask some questions to further that.”
Meyer said no one requesting services is ever required or pressured to agree with the center on a spiritual matter.” Ancil Overby, executive director of the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Gaston County called NARAL’s report a “smear campaign,” and told the Gaston Gazette that in his 15 years at the local center, which serves some 4,000 clients annually, only three had complained about services.
In an e-mail to the Gazette, N.C. Sen. Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston) said she was not surprised that pro-abortion groups were trying to discredit those “who encourage women to choose life.” She was one of many sponsors of the Choose Life license plate legislation that was also targeted by the NARAL report, which argued that regulation of the pregnancy care centers is necessary because they would be receiving state funding.
Both Meyer and House Majority Leader Paul Stam (R-Wake) pointed out to the media that the potential license plate funds won’t come from the state budget but from the extra money people pay for the specialty plates.
“The law does not force anyone to buy ‘Choose Life’ license plates that help fund Crisis Pregnancy Centers,” Harrington wrote. And Meyer added that, as a result of a lawsuit filed by pro-choice activists and the American Civil Liberties Union, not one pregnancy care center has received any funds from Choose Life plate sales.
Like Harrington, Meyer said she was not surprised by NARAL’s attack on the PCCs, which appears to follow the same pattern that pro-abortion groups have used in other locations across the nation.
On May 10, NARAL Pro-Choice New York posted a YouTube video revealing its national plans to try to shut down pregnancy centers via the organization’s Urban Initiative and instead direct women to abortion providers. As early as December, 2009, an online newsletter had outlined the group’s strategy: first to publish “studies” that show that centers “mislead” women; then, to identify lawmakers willing to pass legislation restricting the centers and effectively shutting them down.
According to Peggy Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat International, the studies, like the one just reported in North Carolina, which rely on NARAL members “who act as fake clients and try to trip up the centers they visit,” often backfire.
“When such a study was brought into hearings on a law to muzzle centers in Virginia, the expert witness for NARAL was forced to admit that their study contained ‘methodological flaws,'” Hartshorn wrote in a recent column. She attributed the increased attacks from NARAL to the fact that “the pregnancy help movement, fueled by Christian charity and equipped by … leadership training … is lowering abortion sales and tilting the culture toward life.”
“We have one powerful, slander-busting weapon that abortion advocates do not have — precious babies with happy Mothers!,” Hartshorn added. “NARAL’s regulatory proposals are self-serving and insulting to women, who are fully able to determine who they seek help from and decide if it is offered in good faith. Using the powerful testimonies of our mothers and their babies, we intend to fight back.”
Meyer said the best way for Tar Heel residents to know what truly goes on at pregnancy care centers is to phone their local PCC, ask questions and arrange a visit.
Dr. Creech joined Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in defending the important role of the PCCs in the pro-life movement.
“Crisis pregnancy centers deserve the support of all who cherish the sanctity of life, the defense of the unborn, and the right of free speech,” wrote Mohler in a recent column addressing attacks on the centers. “As defenders of life, crisis pregnancy centers should be committed to nothing less than comprehensive truth-telling. It is the Culture of Death, not the Culture of Life, that fears the truth.”