An association of abortion clinics is complaining that opponents of legalized abortion are using taxpayer funds to finance deceptive tactics aimed at women seeking to terminate their pregnancies.
A report issued yesterday by the National Abortion Federation contends that so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which abortion rights advocates have long accused of duplicity, are now subsidizing their operations with state grants, including monies from "Choose Life" license plates.
"They are intimidating and harassing our patients that are falsely drawn to these organizations," the founder and director of a clinic that provides abortions in West Palm Beach, Fla., Mona Reis, said. She said the state of Florida has provided $2 million to pregnancy centers run by anti-abortion groups and Governor Jeb Bush has proposed doubling the appropriation next year. "When it comes to crisis pregnancy centers, there is no accountability for the distribution of funds," Ms. Reis charged.
The report alleges a variety of misleading practices and outright lies by anti-abortion counseling centers and includes a claim that one such center falsely told a woman a she was not pregnant in an effort to trick her "into carrying the fetus past the time for a safer abortion."
The president of the National Abortion Federation,Vicki Saporta, said the centers often use names designed to cause confusion with abortion providers. She said a Massachusetts counseling center used the name "PP, Inc." and set up on the same floor as a Planned Parenthood clinic. In another instance, she said, an anti-abortion group opened a counseling center named the "Fargo Women's Help Organization" close to an abortion clinic, the "Fargo Women's Health Organization."
A spokeswoman for a chain of antiabortion counseling centers, Care Net, said the report contains inaccurate and recycled allegations. "A lot of their sources are old and out of date," the spokeswoman, Kristin Hansen, said. The example of name confusion Ms. Saporta cited from Massachusetts dates to 1986 and the clinic she mentioned in North Dakota closed in 2001.
Ms. Reis said it is unfair that her clinic is covered by state and federal regulations about privacy, worker safety, and laboratory techniques, while counseling centers do not comply with those regulations, even when they offer ultra sounds or lab tests. "There is no standard for those technicians that are providing those ultrasounds," she said.
Ms. Hansen said centers affiliated with her group use only trained medical personnel to provide medical services.
One of the remedies suggested in the report is legislation to restrict advertising by counseling centers. The New York Sun reported in March that the American Civil Liberties Union had endorsed federal legislation sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat representing Queens and the Upper East Side, which would instruct the Federal Trade Commission to regulate advertising for abortion services, including advice about the procedure. After the Sun reported that some civil libertarians questioned the constitutionality and wisdom of the proposal, the ACLU removed a press release about the endorsement from the organization's Web site. However, members of the group's board later concluded that the proposed legislation was constitutional.
In an interview with the Sun yesterday, Ms. Reis said she is sensitive to the free speech concerns. "I'm a sixties, anti-war person. I really respect freedom of speech. I was on the other side," she said."The fact they get government support I find very unsettling.... I respect that women have choices to make but their tactics are luring them with lies and deceptions."