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Why aren't pro-life Christians more supportive of pregnancy centers?

CompassCare, a pro-life pregnancy center in Amherst, New York, that was firebombed by pro-abortion activists, was rebuilt in less than two months.
CompassCare, a pro-life pregnancy center in Amherst, New York, that was firebombed by pro-abortion activists, was rebuilt in less than two months. | CompassCare

Just two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to return the issue of abortion to “the people and their elected representatives.” In today’s contentious political climate, it should come as no surprise that not all elected representatives support legal protections for unborn children. More surprising, though, is that some of those elected representatives also do not support true choice for women. Instead, they are actively working to eliminate women’s choices by targeting pro-life pregnancy centers.

Two decades ago, I was first introduced to the pro-life movement when my mom signed me up to volunteer at a local pregnancy center with my church. Today, I represent pro-life pregnancy centers in court as an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney.

In many ways, pregnancy centers are the heart of the pro-life movement. These centers serve on the front lines by meeting women where they are and encouraging them to choose life for their unborn children. But pregnancy centers are also crucial to providing women with the information, support, and resources they need to make a true choice to continue an unplanned pregnancy.

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Pregnancy centers offer both material and emotional support to women who want to choose life — such as diapers, baby and maternity clothing, parenting classes, and adoption referrals — free of charge. Many centers also offer free pregnancy testing and pregnancy-options counseling to women who are unsure what choice to make, and free post-abortion counseling or support groups for women who choose to terminate their pregnancy. Some pregnancy centers have licensed medical staff and provide free medical services, such as ultrasounds or STD testing and treatment. It is hard to imagine how anyone — regardless of their opinion on abortion — could oppose centers that offer free resources to women, children, and families.

Yet many pro-choice elected officials are trying to shut down pregnancy centers. Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey recently launched a million-dollar “public education campaign” to dissuade women from visiting pro-life pregnancy centers. Notably, the motivation behind this campaign is not to protect women’s choice whether “to bear or beget a child” — the right protected by the Supreme Court’s now-defunct abortion cases — but to “protect[] and expand[] access to safe and legal abortion” (emphasis added).

Unfortunately, Massachusetts is not the only state where elected officials have “declare[d] war” on pro-life pregnancy centers. Last fall, California Attorney General Rob Bonta and 15 other state attorneys general penned an open letter “support[ing] Yelp’s efforts” to warn consumers about pregnancy centers that “do not provide abortions or abortion services” and promising to “take numerous actions ... to mitigate the harmful effects” of these centers.

When the letter was published, Bonta had already made good on that promise by bringing suit against five California pregnancy centers for advertising abortion pill reversal — an evidence-based treatment that uses progesterone, a safe and natural hormone, to counteract the effects of the abortion drug mifepristone. Research shows that APR has a 64-68% success rate, and statistics indicate it has likely saved over 5,000 unborn children by countering the lethal effects of abortion drugs.

Other states have followed suit. In Colorado, for example, ADF attorneys represent Chelsea Mynyk — a licensed nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, and APR provider — in a case challenging a state law that makes it illegal to prescribe progesterone for the purpose of reversing the effects of mifepristone.  And, in New York, Attorney General Letitia James sued 11 faith-based, pro-life pregnancy centers and a network of affiliated centers in the state because they made positive — and truthful — claims about the safety and efficacy of APR. ADF represents two additional pregnancy centers and a nonprofit network of affiliated centers in a separate lawsuit challenging the attorney general’s ability to censor the centers’ speech concerning APR.

But the attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers are not limited to their provision of APR. Last summer, Vermont enacted a law censoring the ability of pregnancy centers to advertise their life-affirming services and counsel women about their pregnancy options. ADF filed suit, and just this month, a federal court rejected the attorney general’s attempt to keep the case out of court, in part because the law specifically targets pregnancy centers for their pro-life beliefs.

And ADF recently represented Illinois pregnancy centers at trial in a case challenging a state law that forces pro-life healthcare providers who have conscientious objections to abortion to inform women of the so-called “benefits” of abortion and give them a list of providers that offer abortion. Likewise, the New Jersey and Washington attorneys general have targeted pregnancy centers with burdensome and unlawful subpoenas and now face lawsuits from ADF.

This war against pregnancy centers has shown the true colors of many “pro-choice politicians” who have chosen to support abortion at all costs, even at the expense of providing a true choice to pregnant women. Unfortunately, even pro-life Christians are lagging in their support for pregnancy centers. In a recent survey, only a third of churchgoing Christians reported that their congregation had been involved with pregnancy centers in any way. It is high time for pro-life Christians to step up to defend the crucial work of pro-life pregnancy centers. Clearly our elected representatives will not do it for us.

Julia Payne serves as legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal).

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