Can't beat 'em? Smear 'em

Abortion | As CPCs gain attention and respect providing compassionate alternatives to abortion, nervous pro-abort activists dust off an old anti-CPC smear campaign

Issue: "Roe vs. Wade 2000," Jan. 22, 2000

On a campaign swing late last year through gently rolling Iowa farmlands ripe with corn and votes, George W. Bush dropped in at a Dubuque crisis pregnancy center. Heralding the "beauty of adoption," Mr. Bush said that, if elected, he would use the power of the White House to bring attention to crisis pregnancy centers: "I think we ought to fund the programs [that] are trying to help" pregnant women in need. George W. isn't the only GOP presidential candidate singing the praises of CPCs. Steve Forbes and Gary Bauer have toured and declared their support for crisis pregnancy centers while on the campaign trail. Alan Keyes favors using faith-based organizations like CPCs in the delivery of social services. And John McCain, an adoptive parent, sees CPCs as valuable resources. Throw in the Women and Children Resources Act, a bill introduced in September by Reps. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Mary Bono (R-Calif.) that would include CPCs in a federal funding bloc that nearly equals that of Planned Parenthood, and things are looking up for CPCs. But what's good for CPCs is bad for the abortion business, and abortion enthusiasts and industry lobbyists are increasingly realizing this. That pro-aborts see CPCs as a threat is evident: Throughout 1999, they launched a fresh barrage of attacks on crisis pregnancy centers. It all started when word leaked that the California CPC network First Resort had successfully established a system of referrals with HMO giant Kaiser Permanente. Sensing a potential trend of disastrous proportions, pro-abortion activists quickly cobbled together an anti-CPC smear campaign and set it in motion. In January, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) posted on its website a document titled "Deceptive Anti-Abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers." Passed off as a "fact sheet," the 13-page report resurrects the anti-CPC slur "fake clinic," a pejorative hatched by Planned Parenthood in the mid-1980s. By then, nearly 3,000 CPCs dotted the nation; a tiny minority followed the lead of the Pearson Institute, a pro-life pregnancy center network that justified the use of evasion and scare tactics by comparing saving pre-born babies to hiding Jews from the Nazis. Most CPCs opposed the Pearson methods. But that didn't stop Planned Parenthood spin doctors from turning the tactics of a few into an albatross for the many. They crafted a far-ranging media campaign that painted all CPCs as deceptive, anti-choice terrorist cells populated by religious extremists. It was a strategically mixed PR mickey that left CPCs reeling in a backlash of negative public opinion. Today, though, it's abortion enthusiasts who apparently have the hangover. Despite congressional hearings, court battles, and new advertising regulations that forced the few deceptive CPCs to clean up their acts long ago, NARAL and other pro-aborts continue clinging to the past. While the group uses the present tense to charge that most CPCs today lie to clients, masquerade as medical facilities, and show graphic films, the examples NARAL cites to support its claims are between 5 and 14 years old. NARAL press secretary William Lutz told WORLD the document was written to combat a "resurgence in the use of deceptive practices" by CPCs-a resurgence, he said, that occurred in 1998. WORLD asked whether NARAL could produce any recent examples of the alleged "resurgence." "I don't have time for that," said Mr. Lutz: "Everything's in the fact sheet." So, would it be accurate to report that the fact sheet data is old and that NARAL would not provide recent evidence to support its contention that there has been a resurgence of deceptive practices at CPCs? Said Mr. Lutz: "If you have the fact sheet and you feel comfortable with that, go ahead." Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Abortion Federation, and other pro-abortion groups currently spike their websites with misinformation similar to NARAL's outdated fact sheet. But some abortion-rights supporters aren't sure why their colleagues are resurrecting the anti-CPC ghost. "I don't know what has compelled them to highlight this issue at this point," National Coalition of Abortion Providers (NCAP) director Ron Fitzsimmons told WORLD. "In 1991, we were hearing a lot of horror stories of women going into facilities and being forced to watch videos ... but since then, the number of complaints regarding CPCs has decreased." "The CPCs have, in many ways, cleaned up their act. There are cases out there where women are still being deceived ... there are bound to be some rogues," Mr. Fitzsimmons said. "But I don't know what's made [NARAL] get into this all of a sudden. Today, [CPCs] are not on NCAP's radarscopes." Activist groups weren't alone this year in dishing dirt on CPCs. Media outlets took their whacks too. San Francisco's KPIX-TV ran an "investigative" news story by reporter Christy O'Connor. Ms. O'Connor, a pro-abortion journalist who had also reported on CPCs while working at a Dallas station, suggested the story shortly after coming to work at KPIX. With approval from her news director, she wired herself for sound and secreted a video camera in an oversize black satchel. Then, in the name of unmasking deception, she visited three different CPCs, deceiving some workers there into believing she was interested in options for an unwanted pregnancy. "Even when she was in the reception room, she held the bag between her legs and sat on the edge of the chair," says Linda Dunning, site director of the Community Pregnancy Center of Santa Clara County, one stop on Ms. O'Connor's CPC tour. "If we could get hold of the video, you would probably see me staring at that bag. I remember looking at it, wondering if I was being taped." According to Mrs. Dunning, Ms. O'Connor asked aggressive, atypical questions, but was evasive when she herself was queried. She also made unusual requests, like asking Mrs. Dunning to read aloud a brochure called "Making an Informed Decision About Your Pregnancy"-apparently to get the text on audiotape. At one point, Ms. O'Connor asked whether it was true that a woman's intestines could be sucked out during an abortion. Mrs. Dunning said the encounter became so bizarre that she finally looked Ms. O'Connor in the eye and said: "Are you taping me?" "Her face just fell," Mrs. Dunning said. After learning that Ms. O'Connor was reporting for KPIX-TV, the two continued talking. "I was still trying to connect with her," Ms. Dunning said. "She was still a woman, still a person. It was not the time to be unkind. She said she'd been told about 'the intestine thing' when she had asked about potential organ damage from abortions at another CPC. She also told me she had found me to be very compassionate." But when Ms. O'Connor's story aired in May, compassion was out and "the intestine thing" was in. KPIX news trailers included video clips of volatile confrontations at abortion clinics between pro- and anti-abortion activists and the audio teaser, "Are women losing their right to choose?" The story itself included face-obscured interviews with pro-abortion activists, data on the declining availability of abortions in the Bay Area, and claims that CPCs routinely gave clients inaccurate medical information. Not a single interview with a CPC employee or volunteer-or documentation that would show that each CPC's initial consent form states its anti-abortion stance-was included in the piece. When WORLD called Ms. O'Connor to discuss the story, she again leveled the charge that CPCs disseminate faulty medical data. Pressed for examples, she could cite only one: the intestine thing. Ms. O'Connor felt one CPC counselor's claim that intestinal damage is a risk of abortion was "medically questionable." WORLD pointed out that Bruce Steir, a California abortionist currently facing murder charges, had been mentioned in her report. Did Ms. O'Connor know how Dr. Steir had killed his patient, 27-year-old Sharon Hamptlon? "No," Ms. O'Connor replied. By puncturing Ms. Hamptlon's uterus and pulling her intestine through the hole. "Oh," said Ms. O'Connor after a long pause: "I was not aware of that." Ms. O'Connor wasn't the only lone gun in the 1999 anti-CPC assault. Sunny Chapman, a freelance videographer in Dayton, Ohio, produced two videos that she sells over the Internet and presents at special screenings by pro-abortion groups. The short films, Misguidance and In Bad Faith, both center on "Katy," a pregnant teen who claims she went to a crisis pregnancy center for help. In the videos, Katy says CPC staffers gave her brochures with "misleading information" and "made" her sit and watch a frightening movie about abortion. Whether or not Katy's claims are true, they're another example of using the past to blackball CPCs in the present. Katy is now 26 years old. At minimum, her CPC visit occurred seven years ago. With the Pitts-Bono bill pending on Capitol Hill, and the GOP bearing down on the presidency, pro-abortion CPC-bashers may be forced to stop living in the past. The near future may find crisis pregnancy centers breaking the Planned Parenthood government-funding monopoly-and giving pregnant women in need a real choice.

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Lynn Vincent
Lynn Vincent

Lynn is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and the best-selling author of 10 non-fiction books.


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