NARAL calls the centers "Limited Service Pregnancy Centers," accusing the clinics of making false medical statements and using false advertising—tricking clients into coming and then talking them out of getting an abortion.
Well, the house building hallway is jam-packed today. But not with pro-choice advocates. Red and white "I Heart Pregnancy Resource Centers" buttons are the bling of choice today. And the line to testify didn't simply go out the door of the hearing room in the house O'Brien building, it also stretched outside the house building itself into the rain.
"I guess they outnumber us," a pro-choice advocate pressed up against the entrance to the house building said glumly. (A legislative staffer who was signing people up to speak told me the anti-choice folks outnumbered the pro-choice folks "80 to 20" percent)
I tried to talk to one of the teens with an "I Heart Pregnancy Resource Center" button but she referred me to the group's spokesman, Thomas Glessner, a D.C.-based attorney with the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which he said represents 1200 centers nationwide. He pointed out that he's from Washington State and opened the first pregnancy center in the Pacific Northwest in Seattle in 1981.
Glessner, a stout man dressed in a blue suit and red tie, said the bill was "an attempt by the abortion industry to put its competition out of business." He cited language in the bill that allowed "any aggrieved party" to file a suit against the centers—as opposed to someone who suffered actual damages. His fear: With all the requirements of the bill, including mandating posts in five different languages, "anyone whose offended by our work could be considered aggrieved."
Glessner also said the bill was "creating a problem that didn't exist," saying that the centers are listed in the yellow pages under "abortion alternatives." "No one claims that we provide abortions."
What about on their web sites? Do they make it clear that there are no abortion services at the centers?
"Some do and some don't," Glessner said.
However, he added, "If this is about choice, why are they trying to stop centers that help women choose life? The reason is, they're not pro-choice. They're pro-abortion."
Alison Mondi, communications director for NARAL, told PubliCola in response: "Our main concern is that women get accurate information and full health care, and these centers are a barrier to that."
At the hearing, Sara Ainsworth, an attorney with Legal Voice, a women's legal advocacy group, said her clients have reported "being asked to wait twenty minutes to an hour and a half [at pregnancy centers]," being "given misinformation," and being told they should "wait until she was twelve weeks pregnant before she received any services to see if she miscarried first."
Another, she said, was told that abortion causes breast cancer. All of the women Ainsworth spoke with were denied written verification that they were pregnant.