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The advocacy group said the centers use "coercion, deception and misinformation" to dissuade women from having abortions.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
What are known as crisis pregnancy centers in Virginia are actually anti-abortion facilities that use “coercion, deception and misinformation” to discourage women from having abortions, an advocacy group asserted in a report released Monday.
“CPCs are anti-choice facilities that regularly pose as comprehensive reproductive health facilities,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, which released the report after a yearlong investigation.
Of 56 centers examined, 40 shared medically erroneous information, suggesting that women who have abortions will develop eating disorders and drug and alcohol addiction, the report stated.
“These claims have been debunked by the American Psychological Association and other well-respected groups,” Keene said.
The report also questioned practices at some CPCs that have come to light since the passage of a state law last year requiring women to obtain an ultrasound procedure before getting an abortion.
Several centers, including the Blue Ridge Women’s Center in Roanoke, have reportedly performed ultrasounds and then refused to hand over the images to women who planned to have an abortion at another facility.
“According to a complaint filed on behalf of [a client] to the Virginia Department of Health, the Blue Ridge Women’s Health Center flatly denied this request on the grounds that they ‘do not support abortion clinics,’ ” the report stated.
Advocates said such a practice is particularly troubling considering that the Roanoke center is on a list of CPCs, provided by the state health department, that provide free ultrasound exams.
“In other words, the Department of Health is directing women — under the guise of compliance with the mandatory ultrasound law — to facilities that refuse to provide women with the documentation that is needed to comply with the law,” said Kathy Greenier of the American Civil Liberties Union, which joined NARAL in a teleconference.
Phil Holsinger, CEO of the Blue Ridge Women’s Center, said Monday that he had not seen the report and could not comment on it.
He did say that the center provides ultrasound images to all patients upon a legitimate request. “That’s not our policy,” he said of the refusal reported by the abortion rights group.
As for the center’s overall mission, he said: “Blue Ridge Women’s Center in Roanoke is an alternative to an abortion facility. We don’t make any bones about that.”
NARAL’s report was released exactly one year after the effective date of a state law requiring ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. The controversial law put Virginia in a national spotlight last year, in part because an earlier version — later revised — required women to submit to a more invasive “transvaginal” procedure in order to terminate an early stage pregnancy.
Virginia also requires a 24-hour waiting period for such procedures.
A little-noticed part of the law requires the state health department to compile a list of centers that provide ultrasounds at no cost. Because abortion clinics typically charge for ultrasounds as part of their more comprehensive medical treatment, they do not appear on the list.
According to NARAL, the law has served to “support, aid and legitimize” the state’s CPCs.
“It’s absolutely wrong for a CPC to use coercion and misinformation on its clients, and it’s deeply disturbing that the Virginia Department of Health would endorse this practice,” said Sen. Ralph Northam, a Norfolk Democrat who is running for lieutenant governor.
Dr. Lauri Kalanges, acting director of the health department’s Office of Family Health Services, said the agency does not endorse any facility. As required by the law, health officials surveyed all reproductive health facilities and compiled a list of 18 that provide free ultrasounds, Kalanges said.
According to NARAL’s 60-page report, other “medical falsehoods” perpetuated by CPCs include claims that abortions can cause breast cancer, infertility and later pregnancy complications.
Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said it is NARAL that is spreading falsehoods.
“It’s hard to believe anything the group claims,” she said.
“Virginia’s lucrative abortion industry is watching women make a different choice than abortion and it’s eating into profits,” Cobb said. “This report by NARAL is nothing more than a pathetic attempt at scaring women.”
Consistent with the fierce back-and-forth that is part of the abortion debate, NARAL contends that opponents are using ultrasounds as a form of emotional manipulation directed at women whose decision to have an abortion might be changed by seeing a computerized image.
The NARAL report cites one case in which someone at a CPC digitally inserted the words “Hi Dad” into a client’s ultrasound image.
In contrast, NARAL said other providers give “non-directive information and counsel their patients with respect, not shame.”
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