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Escalating the war on crisis pregnancy centers

Hartford, Connecticut joins the fight against the abortion industry’s nemesis: the crisis pregnancy center.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Opening a new front in the abortion wars, some of Connecticut’s progressive politicians have now taken aim at the state’s crisis pregnancy centers. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin is now targeting the city’s pregnancy support centers with a new Pregnancy Information Disclosure and Protection Ordinance, this after a June 2018 free-speech ruling by the United States Supreme Court that struck down a Ninth Circuit ruling forcing pro-life centers to post notices on how to obtain abortions.

As of October 1, the city’s crisis pregnancy centers will be forced to post large signs at the front door and in the reception area warning women that the center is not staffed by medical personnel. Mayor Bronin told local NBC reporters that “women have been lured to the pro-life pregnancy center through deceptive practices”; he claims that the new ordinance will survive legal challenges because it is more narrowly defined than the California ordinance struck down by the high court in June.

Claiming that the pro-life centers are misleading women, Bronin told a reporter at Fox News: “We have seen young women, often young women with few resources who don’t have access to regular medical care, deceived and lured away from women’s health centers that offer the full range of reproductive healthcare.”

It is clear that it’s the abortion industry that women are being “lured away from,” and progressive politicians like Mayor Bronin need to ensure that abortion-industry money keeps flowing into their campaign coffers, as crisis pregnancy centers proliferate in direct proportion to the shrinking number of abortion clinics. Bronin knows that the pro-life centers are a threat to the abortion industry. They know that abortion clinics are quickly losing ground to pregnancy-support centers that give women alternatives to ending their pregnancies.

The first free-standing crisis pregnancy center opened its doors in 1968 in Toronto, and since that time, pro-life centers have become one of the greatest volunteer-based movements in history, offering non-judgmental, confidential, and free outreach to women faced with unplanned pregnancies. In data compiled by the Charlotte Lozier Institute—a pro-life organization that brings together physicians, sociologists, statisticians, and policy researchers to do both original and interpretive research on a wide range of life issues—we learn that pregnancy centers have grown into a global movement: in 2017 alone, pregnancy centers provided nearly 2 million people in the United States with free services, with estimated community cost-savings of at least $161 million annually.  Women and men have received services from these pro-life centers including pregnancy tests, options consultation, sexual risk avoidance education, parenting and prenatal education, ultrasounds, medical services, community referrals, and material support. These services were provided at no cost to clients. According to the Lozier data, in 2017, 67,400 volunteers donated their time and talent to crisis pregnancy centers. More than 7,500 of them were medical professionals.

All of this threatens the abortion industry. From the earliest days of the crisis pregnancy center movement in 1968, there have been relentless attacks—largely propagated by pro-abortion forces. But during the past two decades, state-based legislative attacks have accelerated, driven primarily by progressive politicians beholden to the abortion industry.

Politicians from New York and California have led the war on the crisis pregnancy centers. Firing an early shot nearly two decades ago was New York’s now-disgraced Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who attempted to block crisis pregnancy centers from implementing ultrasound technology in their facilities.  In 2002, Spitzer issued 34 subpoenas to centers “suspected of deceiving women about their services or of practicing medicine without a license.” The Hartford ordinance is just another page from the Spitzer playbook. Working closely with Family Planning Associates of New York State, an umbrella group that includes 78 family-planning clinics and abortion facilities, including 15 operated by Planned Parenthood, Spitzer claimed to be probing complaints that the groups “lure women with the promise of reproductive health services, only to present them with anti-abortion messages.”

Spitzer, who found himself years later ensnared in a sex scandal over his use of prostitutes, harassed the crisis pregnancy centers and forced them to provide his office with copies of all advertisements, website addresses, services provided, names of staff members, and forms and records of all agreements made.  Working closely with Spitzer in the campaign against the pro-life centers, JoAnn Smith, president and chief executive officer of Family Planning Advocates, warned that “a new trend at the centers is to offer sonograms.” Ultrasound technology especially concerned Smith, because she claimed that the centers lacked the medical personnel and licenses necessary to provide the services correctly. The truth is that she was worried that ultrasound technology itself would dissuade the women from abortion.

While Spitzer and now-Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City’s Mayor Bill DeBlasio—and Hartford’s Mayor Bronin—may be successful in making service provision more difficult for crisis pregnancy centers, it is impossible to stop a service that women are asking for. It is difficult to block access to ultrasound technology in a free market. And it is impossible to stop women’s reactions to images of their unborn children. Even the New York Times had to acknowledge the effectiveness of ultrasound technologies in dissuading women from abortion. In 2005 Times writer Neela Banerjee introduced readers to women who had visited these centers intending to get abortions, but changed their minds once they saw the ultrasound images. So fearful that the pro-life perspective will deter women from getting abortions, the Feminist Women’s Health Center, a group that operates abortion clinics in several states, warns women on its website that they should stay away from crisis pregnancy centers: “If you discover you are seeking help from an anti-abortion facility, protect yourself from further harassment and leave the premises immediately and do not return.”

Despite the attempts by Hartford’s mayor and a growing number of states with progressive politicians who are beholden to the abortion industry, attempting to suppress women’s access to pregnancy support centers, the widespread use of ultrasound has created a society that is more “fetally aware” than ever. There is no stopping that now as “baby’s first picture” is now routinely tacked to the refrigerator door well before the baby is born, reflecting feelings that are more conflicted than most abortion rights activists can afford to acknowledge.

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About Anne Hendershott 104 Articles
Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH


  1. Hartford’s new anti-CPC ordinance is another attack on the Bill of Rights, namely Free Speech. It should be ignored by pro-lifers. It is on its face, unconstitutional.

  2. The government should not promote or discourage pregnancy. We need laws that give men the right to refuse consent to the abortion of their child. Counseling men to take responsibility for their unborn and the mother should be an important part of crisis pregnancy centers.

  3. This is clearly an evil ploy by Mayor Bronin because if the pregnancy resource centers were actually “luring” women with a promise of “reproductive services” then he would have installed an ordinance to take down signs, not put them up. Since these centers must run as businesses, then why is the Chamber of Commerce in Hartford not complaining. What if the mayor decided to require certain pizza shops to put up a sign that says “we don’t sell Gluten-free crust”. Would this stir up the lazy go-along, get-along Chamber-pots? As the author notes, this is not about false advertisement; it’s about abortion industry protection.

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