Thursday, January 19, 2012

NARAL attacks Minnesota pregnancy centers and Positive Alternatives

NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota has released a report titled "State-Funded Deception: Minnesota's Crisis Pregnancy Centers," a supposed exposé of our state's pro-life pregnancy care centers (also called crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs). NARAL hopes to get rid of the Positive Alternatives program, which provides modest state grants to a select number of pregnancy centers in Minnesota, by discrediting these organizations. NARAL also hopes to slap certain legal restrictions on them, but laments that "not all of the harmful practices CPCs engage in can be remedied through legislation."

What are these horrible places that perpetrate "gross injustice" (as the NARAL report puts it)? Pregnancy care centers help pregnant women and new mothers in need (and their families) without advocating the wrong of abortion as a solution to the difficulties of life. Rather, these pregnancy centers offer the information, counseling, medical referrals, adoption help and various other kinds of assistance (e.g., parenting training programs, baby supplies, housing and employment assistance) necessary to become a prepared parent or to place a child for adoption in a loving home. They are a one-stop location for pregnant women who may lack resources and support, feel desperate, or feel that abortion is their only option. (Such women will not find what they need at the typical abortion clinic.)

The Positive Alternatives program, created in 2005 through MCCL-backed legislation, helps counteract the $1.5 million-plus of state taxpayer money each year that directly pays for abortions, in addition to all the taxpayer money that funds organizations that perform and promote abortion. MCCL has compiled some stories of women helped and unborn lives saved through Positive Alternatives. More than 25,000 women statewide were helped through the program in its first four years (July 2006-June 2010). The program correlates to a four-year trend of declining abortions in Minnesota. (This is not to say that Positive Alternatives is solely responsible for the abortion decline, but there is no doubt that lives are saved through the program.)

NARAL investigated 15 pregnancy centers (of the nearly 100 in Minnesota) via in-person visits, website analyses and phone calls. The resulting report doesn't offer much substance. It is, however, full of ideological rhetoric. Those who oppose abortion are called "anti-choice," a purely ideological term if there ever was one. Pregnancy centers are said to "frighten and intimidate women," a ridiculous charge to those who actually know the staff and volunteers at such centers. Pregnancy centers are blasted for "promot[ing] their own agenda," which is really just the intention to help women, better lives and rescue young human beings from the killing of abortion.

The report claims: "Perhaps the most damaging and memorable practice CPCs engage in are the emotionally manipulative tactics CPCs use to scare and shame women out of exercising their right to choose abortion." How do pregnancy centers do this? They "scare and shame women" by doing things like "telling personal stories, crying [abortion has often been a very personal issue], using fetal models ... or videos to show fetal development." Such emotional appeals are not bad -- in fact, they can be good and important -- as long as they are grounded in truth. (Consider, in contrast, the emotion-based appeals that form the bulk of popular pro-choice rhetoric and argument. They either obscure sound reasoning, are based on false claims, or both.)

The most absurd statement in NARAL's report is this: "By using the key words such as 'pregnancy' or 'help' or 'choices' in web searches, the CPCs deceive women seeking guidance." What?

More substantively, the report attacks as false certain statements about the effect of abortion on women. First, the report says there is no link between abortion and a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Really? Check out this list of studies pertaining to the relationship between abortion and the development of breast cancer. Learn more about the evidence here and here.

Second, the report denies that there is an increased risk of mental health problems following abortion. A 2011 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Psychiatry -- "the largest quantitative estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion available in the world literature" -- strongly suggests otherwise. Third, the NARAL report downplays any increased risk of future infertility and miscarriage following abortion. Evidence suggests that the risk is real (go here for the infertility risk and here for miscarriage).

The irony is that abortion advocates are unfairly targeting pregnancy centers at a time when the abortion industry itself has been exposed. From the horrifying and illegal practices of abortionists Kermit GosnellSteven Brigham and Nicola Riley to Planned Parenthood's cover-up of apparent statutory rape and underage sex trafficking -- abortion defenders are eager to deflect attention. And to undermine the lifesaving and woman-helping work of pregnancy care centers.