Like a Prayer: God & Abortion at the Pregnancy Support Center | Community Notebook | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Like a Prayer: God & Abortion at the Pregnancy Support Center 

Last Updated: 06/29/2013 11:49 am

Page 4 of 6

Less than a month later, after a great deal of pressure from the pro-life movement, Spitzer announced a settlement. He agreed to withdraw the subpoenas from several pregnancy centers across the state in exchange for following certain guidelines.

"For women seeking alternatives to abortion, pregnancy crisis centers can provide valuable services," Spitzer said in a press release. "It is imperative, however, that the staff and management of these facilities understand and adhere to the law regarding advertising and counseling."

While these centers are still not regulated by the state as are Planned Parenthood and other medical providers, they must now clearly state that they do not provide any medical services or make referrals for them. They are required to disclose that their centers are not licensed medical providers qualified to diagnose or accurately date pregnancy; they must inform women that only licensed medical providers can confirm pregnancy or provide medical advice about pregnancy; and they must clarify in advertising and consumer contacts that the pregnancy tests provided are self-administered over-the-counter tests. A sign on the bathroom door at the New Paltz center now reminds clients that they must administer and interpret pregnancy test results themselves. The center also added the word "peer" into descriptions of counseling services to remind clients that their counselors are not professionals.

However, La Rose said a former board member filled her in on the investigation. "We reviewed our policies and procedures at the time and decided to change nothing about the way we operate. We've always had high standards regarding truth in advertising, client care, and confidentiality," she said.

The executive director of a Utica center called Care Net Pregnancy Center of Central New York (also a CareNet affiliate), Jacque Wagner, said her center was one of those subpoenaed by Spitzer two years ago, but echoed La Rose in the sentiment that the attorney general's charges were completely baseless. They both characterized it as an unsuccessful campaign by NARAL Pro-Choice America, formerly the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, to close pro-life centers. "We always did everything according to the law and with integrity," Wagner said. "The investigation was related to false advertising and all ours was done honestly and accurately.

Extensive inquiries by Chronogram revealed no gruesome stories like those allegedly experienced by the Brewster or Victor centers. One young women said she felt uncomfortable talking with them about abortion, while another found comfort, although each was leaning toward a different choice when they walked in. Olivia (names have been changed to protect identity) said she was 17 and "scared to death" when she got pregnant. She went to the New Paltz Pregnancy Support Center for help and information.

"It seemed pretty normal until they started talking to me," Olivia said. "They started talking about, 'why I would want to do that [consider an abortion].' They started talking about the abortion process and telling me why abortion is bad."

Olivia said her brief visit to the center did not make her second-guess her decision to have an abortion, and when she went to Planned Parenthood she found a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. She continues to go for free counseling, referrals, health services, and birth control. They also helped her obtain a free and legal abortion after Olivia made the choice to do so.

Christine, 22, also visited the New Paltz center when she was pregnant and said she found comfort in talking to the center's volunteer. They asked her to describe the pros and cons of having an abortion and let her do most of the talking. She ended up keeping the baby, but said she did not realize they were a Christian organization, although they referred to her baby as "the saved one." They sent her home with several months worth of new maternity clothes, as well as supplies for the baby when he is born, and told her to come back any time, she said.

La Rose said she does not like to use scare tactics like those alleged by women in the Brewster and Victor cases. Her methods are focused more on the aspect of the fetus as a unique child from the moment of conception. Exposing pregnant girls and women to visual images of the fetus (or zygote), can be powerful enough on its own according to La Rose. She hopes to find the money to install sonogram machines and nurses in both centers so they can provide this powerful visualization.

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