The head of a major pregnancy center organization responded to a bill introduced earlier this month by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has claimed that pro-life pregnancy centers rely on deception to prevent pregnant women from obtaining abortions.
The Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act, or H.R. 8210, purports that abortion is "an essential component of reproductive health care." The bill would "direct the Federal Trade Commission to prescribe rules prohibiting disinformation in the advertising of abortion services, and for other purposes."
The legislation focuses on pregnancy centers, claiming they prevent access to abortion through "deceptive tactics" and advertise themselves as "providers of comprehensive health care."
In a July 6 post on Twitter, Warren claimed: "Crisis pregnancy centers outnumber legitimate abortion care providers 3 to 1 in Massachusetts. @MassAGO Healey is sounding the alarm about their deceptive practices. We must do everything we can to protect Americans seeking reproductive care."
Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, an affiliation group with a worldwide network of more than 3,000 pro-life pregnancy centers, all of which assist pregnant women by offering free services, told The Christian Post in an interview that while the care each center provides might differ, most offer material services and connect women with community resources.
"We provide connection services through things like Option Line," Godsey said. "But it's the local pregnancy centers that are really defining their own services."
"That's one of the beauties of being local, the idea that the community knows best what the community needs," he continued. "So we firmly believe that the local pregnancy centers are positioned very well to serve the very type of woman in their community who needs that help."
Heartbeat International's network of pregnancy centers reaches clients in a "variety of ways," including through digital and billboard advertising. Godsey said the goal of this marketing strategy is to help clients locate "answers regarding an unintended pregnancy."
"That puts us in direct competition with the abortion industry, which is doing the same," Godsey said. "Of course, they're doing so from a profiteering perspective while we're trying to do so from a service perspective."
"We're trying to help her not need abortion if that's at all possible," he continued. "And so in our marketing, we are going to use terms that fit that."
This means the keywords used in a center's marketing strategy could include the word abortion, but he disagreed with claims like the one in Warren's bill that state this is "deceptive." The reason is that pregnancy centers are trying to offer services to women seeking abortions, Godsey said.
The bill also alleges that pregnancy centers provide women with "inaccurate" or "misleading" information about the risks of abortion and contraception, utilizing "false citations" to imply credibility.
Godsey believes this claim goes back to a 2006 report prepared by former Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif. In it, Waxman accused pregnancy centers of promoting false information, including supposedly inaccurate claims about abortion's effect on women's fertility and mental health.
But the Heartbeat International president believes the research that has come out since then shows that many women experience psychological or physical side effects after an abortion.
According to a 2011 quantitative analysis study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, abortion can substantially increase a woman's risk of experiencing mental health problems. The study found that post-abortive women experience an 81% increased risk of having subsequent mental health issues.
As The Daily Mail reported in 2015, researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel analyzed 15,000 deliveries at Rabin Medical Center over the course of five years. The researchers compared the pregnancy outcomes of those who received a single previous first-trimester interruption to women with no past history of abortion or miscarriage.
The study found women who experienced an abortion or miscarriage were 30% more likely to face future complications than women who have not experienced a pregnancy loss. Those complications include higher rates of induced labor, cesarean sections and retained placenta after delivery.
While further study is necessary to assess the mental and physical side effects of abortions, these studies suggest that there are potential risks to undergoing an abortion.
"And these are all factors that we will want her to be sure of when we're talking to women about what does it mean when you seek abortion?" Godsey said. "Because it's not just the procedure, but by the way, we'll explain the procedure."
"We'll help them understand because we take the position that the woman who is in that decision-making process should have as much information as possible."
Another claim H.R. 8210 makes about pregnancy centers is that these nonprofits are targeting communities of color that are "under-resourced." Godsey stated that this accusation is "ludicrous."
"All of our services are provided at no cost. So who seeks those? That's going to often be those who have a lower income," the pro-life leader said. "There will be those who are not potentially lower income but in a difficult spot due to things like a terrible economy or other things that are going on."
H.R. 8210 also states that the "freedom to decide whether and when to have a child" is "key to the ability of an individual to participate fully in our democracy."
"We vehemently disagree with the idea that women have to have abortions in order to be successful," Godsey said. "They're more powerful than that; they've been the cradle of motherhood for millennia."
"They have overcome great things, great difficulties in the past to accomplish these things. And to me, it's demeaning to women to suggest that they need abortions in order to be successful."
A June report released by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, found that over 800,000 preborn children were not aborted due to the community-based efforts of pregnancy resource centers.
The report also highlighted how more than 2,700 pregnancy centers exist in the country, offering medical care, referrals, education and material resources at no charge. Services are offered by nearly 15,000 staff and almost 54,000 volunteers, including 10,200 licensed medical professionals, according to the report.