New York crisis pregnancy center officials have denounced the effort to require the city's pregnancy counseling programs to post signs telling women that they do not provide abortions, condoms or referrals to either.
They say the City Council's legislation, sponsored by Council Member Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan) and unveiled Tuesday, is a political attack trying to silence their centers.
"Why are we being singled out?" asked Chris Slattery, president of Expectant Mother Care (EMC), one of the largest networks of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in New York City.
"They detest us and they want to legislate us out of business," he explained.
Kristen Hansen, vice president of CPC network Care Net, meanwhile, suggested that the reason pregnancy centers have become the "number one target" of pro-abortion activists is because they have been growing in number and effectiveness.
Care Net, for example, reportedly has 1,130 pregnancy centers nationwide, though only one of those centers are in New York. EMC, furthermore, reportedly has over a dozen in the boroughs of New York and two out every three CPCs is an EMC pregnancy center.
"It's been a gradual growth of the centers over 25 years," EMC's Slattery said. The growth, explained Slattery, is a response to the thousands of abortions he believes are carried out each year.
People are starting to change their positions on abortions, added Hansen, and so there is a growing demand for CPCs.
A Gallup poll released in May 2009 found that 51 percent of American's called themselves "pro life" on issues of abortion, compared to 42 percent of those who considered themselves "pro-choice." In announcing their findings, the Gallup organization said it was the first time a majority of U.S. adults had identified themselves a pro-choice since they began asking the abortion question in 1995.
Furthermore, in a more recent Gallup poll, released this past March, there were clear drops in support for legalizing abortion "under any circumstances" across all age groups over the past two decades, after reaching peak levels in the late 1980s.
"People are becoming pro- life," noted Hansen.
Pro-choice group NARAL, however, has offered a different explanation for the City Council's effort against CPCs. It alleged in a research report that CPCs are "posing as pseudo medical facilities and are operated by the anti-choice activists coercing women considering abortion into carrying their pregnancies full term."
In a statement released Tuesday, Kelli Conlin, president of NARAL New York, said a woman who walks into a CPC "is faced with biased counseling anti-abortion propaganda, deliberate deception and emotional manipulation."
"In every possible way, they (CPCs) irresponsibly establish a false aura of medical authority to further their anti-abortion agenda without any regard to a woman's needs or her well-being," she alleged.
However, Slattery said the centers have always disclosed their true services to clients. "Our advertising makes it clear that we offer free pregnancy tests, free counseling, free [STD] testing, and free ultrasounds," he said.
And Hansen said center receptionists "must say, 'we do not provide abortions.'" Similar statements, she added, are also posted on their website.
As both EMC and Care Net are faith-based organizations, they say they naturally discuss adoption and carrying a pregnancy to full term as an alternative to abortion. Both Slattery and Hansen said their counselors also discuss the possible side effects to abortion.
"Women deserve better. Women deserve comprehensive, unbiased information about risks associated with abortion," Hansen said.
Among the risks Hansen listed were breast cancer and depression. According to contributors to NARAL's report, other risks discussed include infertility, sexual dysfunction and scarring. The report accused "[n]early every CPC" it investigated of having "provided misleading – or sometimes, entirely false – information about abortions either though websites, written materials or counseling sessions."
In defense, Hansen said Care Net trains all of its employees extensively and has a national medical board.
"These are materials that we have reviewed through our national medical board," she said.
As for EMC, Slattery said his network of CPCs has Heart Beat International, a faith-based CPC affiliate, train its counselors. EMC also offers a variety brochures from other sources.
Both Hansen and Slattery have labeled the NARAL report as false.
"The accusations that NARAL made does not happen," said Hansen, calling the report biased.
The NARAL report does openly state that NARAL volunteers compiled the report, added Slattery, calling it "unscientific."
Both Hansen and Slattery said they plan to call up clients as well medical experts to testify before the New York City Council, which has yet to set a hearing date for the proposed legislation.
The New York City Council's press secretary said a set hearing date is expected within the next couple of weeks.