City Votes to Regulate Crisis Pregnancy Centers

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The NYC Council recently voted to ensure pregnancy crisis centers (CPC) provide truthful information to women who seek their services. By a vote of 39-9, the council requires CPCs (also known as Pregnancy Service Centers) inform their clients whether or not they have a licensed medical provider on staff; disclose the type of pregnancy-related services provided by the center; and provide confidentiality protections for clients’ personal and health information.

Council members who voted against the legislation are Koo, Mealy, Halloran, Cabrera, Vallone Jr., Ulrich, Oddo and Ignizio. Eugene abstained. Bloomberg is expected to sign the bill into law which will take effect 120 days later.

The legislation defines “limited service pregnancy center” as a facility where the primary purpose is to provide commercially valuable pregnancy-related services, regardless of whether they are offered for a fee but: 1) does not provide or refer for abortions or FDA-approved contraceptive drugs or devices; 2) is not licensed by the State of New York or the United States Government to provide medical or pharmaceutical services; and 3) is not a facility where the primary purpose is for one or more of the practitioners to provide medical services.

Pregnancy Service Centers provide services to women who are or may be pregnant. The centers either (1) provide obstetric ultrasounds, obstetric sonograms or prenatal care; or (2) have the appearance of a licensed medical facility.  Pregnancy Service Centers do not include physicians’ individual or group medical practices.

CPCs throughout the country have a history of employing deceptive tactics to mislead women into carrying pregnancies to term when those women might have made other choices. Often, CPCs are located near clinics that do offer abortions and emergency contraception. Funded by anti abortion groups and religious organizations, CPC staff dress in medical uniforms, lead patients to examining rooms and perform ultrasounds, often with no licensed medical provider on site.

The ongoing national problem led Rep. Henry Waxman to hold congressional hearings and issue a 2006 report on the “False and Misleading Health Information Provided by Federally Funded Pregnancy Resource Centers.”

CPCs are just part of a national war on women’s reproductive health services.
Two weeks ago, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to completely defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of health screenings for cervical and prostate cancer,   STD testing and treatment, and  contraceptives. The House also voted to defund Title X programs that provide pre natal care for low-income women and nutrition programs (WIC) for women and infants. Conservatives claim the vote is to make sure Planned Parenthood and other facilities do not provide legal abortions. Yet, no federal funds are used for abortions.

The fight is being waged on the state level. Many states have introduced legislation to criminalize miscarriage, limit access to contraceptives, and even allow the murder of abortion providers.

States are attempting to criminalize the assault of a woman the attacker knew was pregnant as a means of chipping away at abortion laws. North Carolina would make it a felony for an attacker to kill or injure a fetus at any stage of development, even when the woman did not know she was pregnant. In NYS, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act would require that perpetrators of crimes against pregnant women and their unborn children be held accountable for their crimes (against the unborn child). According to the Guttmacher Institute, 35 states have fetal homicide laws, including 23 that define fetus starting with conception, even in the early weeks before the woman is aware she is pregnant.

Iowa state Republicans have introduced two pieces of legislation that would 1) define a fertilized egg as a person, and 2) allow deadly force against abortion providers or family planning providers, including those who provide contraceptives. South Dakota has a bill that would make killing to defend fetuses a (‘justifiable homicide.’)

Though written to ostensibly protect the unborn fetus carried by a woman from assault, this bill may have unintended social consequences. In 2002, a Michigan woman pregnant with quadruplets, killed her boyfriend who repeatedly punched her in the stomach. She later miscarried. Her voluntary manslaughter conviction was reversed upon appeal.

Utah’s legislation to criminalize miscarriage was vetoed by the governor in March 2010. This has not deterred Georgia, which is seeking to declare Roe v. Wade invalid within the state. In addition, Georgia is seeking to declare miscarriage a crime punishable by life in prison or death. Each miscarriage to be reviewed by investigators to deem if any “human intervention” was involved. There are no exceptions for rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

Kansas is seeking the required notification of 2 parents, which would create severe problems if one parent is deceased or otherwise unavailable.
Because of these national attacks on a woman’s ability to plan and space her children, rallies have been held across the country. NYC’s rally to support Planned Parenthood attracted 6,000 women and men from diverse backgrounds. A national rally in Washington, D.C. is planned for early April. Voters are asked to contact their U.S. Senators, who have the opportunity to correct the House budget legislation.