'Abuse of public funds': Mass. launches $1M ad campaign against pro-life pregnancy centers

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health released a taxpayer-funded education campaign warning pregnant women to avoid pro-life pregnancy resource centers, alleging that these nonprofit organizations put women's "health at risk" and use "deceptive practices" to attract patients. 

The state health department created the public education campaign in collaboration with the Reproductive Equity Now Foundation, the sister organization of Reproductive Equity Now, an activist group that aims to make it easier for women to have abortions. 

According to a June 10 statement, the campaign was funded through a $1 million investment passed by the state legislature as part of the fiscal year 2023 supplemental budget.

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The advertisements will appear on various platforms, including social media, radio and billboards. Massachusetts is the first state to launch a campaign to dissuade women from visiting pregnancy centers.

"In Massachusetts, we are committed to protecting and expanding access to safe and legal abortion," Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Maura Healey said in a statement. 

"That includes protecting patients from the deceptive and dangerous tactics that anti-abortion centers often use to stop people from accessing comprehensive reproductive services," she continued. "This campaign is an important way to provide accurate information so residents can make informed decisions about reproductive care that are right for them."

On June 10, the first advertisement aired across Massachusetts, telling women to avoid what it describes as "anti-abortion centers." The advertisement claims that these centers look like medical organizations but can put women's "health at risk" and do not provide abortions. 

At the end of the advertisement, one of the actresses featured in the campaign directs women to "find care [they] can trust" by visiting a website that tells them where to locate an abortion facility. The website encourages women to file a complaint against pregnancy centers, and attempts to offer advice on how to spot an "anti-abortion center."

The webpage titled "What are anti-abortion centers?" tells women to "beware of 'free' products or services" offered by pregnancy centers, alleging that the nonprofits use the promise of free ultrasounds to lure in patients and then lie to them about how far they are into their pregnancies. 

The webpage also claims many pregnancy centers have untrained staff or volunteers who wear white lab coats to look like qualified medical professionals. In addition, the website accuses pregnancy centers of exaggerating the health risks associated with abortion, which it argues "has a lower complication rate than many other common medical procedures."

The new state-funded campaign has drawn the ire of pro-lifers on social media. The Society of St. Sebastian, an organization that tracks pro-life public policy, called the move "abuse of public funds" and "false attacks." 

Jane Cournan, a Republican candidate for state representative, called the state-funded ads "absolutely bizarre."

"#Massachusetts is against pregnancy resource centers that try to help needy mothers who want to keep their babies," Cournan wrote. "The ones I am familiar with are lifesaving to some mothers and children." 

Reproductive Equity Now Foundation and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment.

Pro-life advocates and pregnancy center organizations have pushed back against the rising trend in recent years of Democratic politicians accusing them of being "fake clinics." According to the pro-life research organization Charlotte Lozier Institute, there are more than 2,700 pro-life pregnancy centers in all 50 states that served over 2 million men, women and youth in 2019. 

In January 2023, a group of mothers demonstrated at Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's office in Washington to share how pro-life pregnancy centers helped them when they were faced with unplanned pregnancies. The demonstration came after Warren called for pro-life pregnancy centers to be shut down.

The campaign, titled #NotFakeToMe, urged the House Judiciary Committee to hold public hearings regarding the trend of vandalism and arson targeting pregnancy resource centers.

"Stanton is launching our #NotFakeToMe campaign to ensure our centers, and thousands around the country, are protected against violent physical attacks and also from intimidation and harassment from members of Congress," Brandi Swindell, CEO and founder of Stanton Healthcare, said. 

"It is important for Congresswoman [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez to hear the personal stories of our mothers and children, so she can fully understand our commitment to women and the incredible services and care we provide."

In October 2023, at least 16 state attorneys general signed a letter claiming that pro-life pregnancy centers are "misleading consumers and delaying access to critical, time-sensitive reproductive healthcare."

This drew a response from the pro-life organization Human Coalition, which operates several crisis pregnancy centers across the U.S.

"What 'reports' from abortion advocacy organizations won't tell you is the myriad of testimonies from women who are grateful for their life-saving experiences with pregnancy centers," the Human Coalition said in a statement at the time. "Many women leave these centers transformed and empowered. ... They certainly don't get this experience at a Planned Parenthood, where they walk out of an abortion right back into the dire circumstances that pressured them to abort. Listen to the voices of these women."

Pro-life advocates and medical professionals have also argued that the number of deaths and complications related to abortion are often undercounted. Pro-life researchers have also pushed back on a 2012 journal article claiming that "abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth," saying the study compares different data sets that cannot accurately be calculated. 

According to a May 2024 report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, pregnancy centers provided over $360 million in services and goods to more than 16,000 clients in 2022. Of the over 62,000 volunteers and paid staff members serving clients at pregnancy centers, nearly 5,000 of them were licensed medical staff. Another 5,396 medical professionals were among the 44,930 total volunteers for 2022. 

In a July 2022 interview with CP, Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, responded to Warren, who also accused pro-life pregnancy centers of using deceptive tactics to prevent women from having abortions. At the time of the interview, Warren had written in a post on X that "We must do everything we can to protect Americans seeking reproductive care."

Godsey told CP that pregnancy centers reach out to potential clients in various ways to help them locate "answers regarding an unintended pregnancy." He disagreed that using terms like "abortion" in their advertising is deceptive, as these centers are attempting to offer free services to women seeking abortions. 

"We're trying to help her not need abortion if that's at all possible," he said. "And so in our marketing, we are going to use terms that fit that."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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