November 18, 2011 (HLIAmerica.org) – The abortion industry is clearly feeling the heat. Planned Parenthood has been defunded in several states, workers from the infamous Kermit Gosnell abortion facility have pleaded guilty to murder, and the Commonwealth of Virginia is providing a model for other states with newly enacted and strict standards for abortion clinics.
The North Carolina chapter of National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro Choice has responded to this pressure with a report lambasting crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in the Tar Heel State. In its press release, NARAL claims to have conducted an undercover investigation of 66 of the 122 CPCs in North Carolina. The actual report reveals that this “investigation” involved visiting only 27 of the centers, while the rest of the information was gleaned from 47 CPC web sites and from 40 phone calls. This small sample size would be enough to question the usefulness of any conclusions, but as it turns out, there are bigger problems in the report than its very limited scope.
NARAL’s criticisms are four-fold. First, they object to the assertion made by CPCs that abortion is linked to breast cancer, claiming in response that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that there is no association between breast cancer and abortion based on a 2003 report.
Those who have closely followed research in the area of breast cancer must be stunned by NARAL’s blithe dismissal of a huge and growing body of evidence, based on a single, highly controversial report. Prominent biologist and endocrinologist Joel Brind analyzed numerous studies in 1996 and 2005, and reported:
The findings concluded that an abortion elevates a women’s overall risk of developing breast cancer by 30 percent. The results were ‘remarkably consistent’ across population, ethnic, dietary, socioeconomic, and lifestyle factors.
When Doctor Brind was barred from participating in the National Cancer Institute’s 2003 workshop, he charged that only scientists who denied a link between breast cancer and abortion were allowed to participate. His assertions, which were initially dismissed, gained credence in 2009 when the chairperson of the NCI workshop, Dr. Louise Brinton, published a paper in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, which concluded that the risk of a highly aggressive form of breast cancer increases by forty percent after a woman has an abortion. Even more surprising, two of the papers she used to support her findings had been rejected for consideration by the 2003 NCI workshop.
Clearly, NARAL is grasping at straws by basing its response on a report that has been so thoroughly discredited by the very person who chaired the workshop that led to the report.
Secondly, NARAL alleges that workers at crisis pregnancy centers warned women about “post-abortion stress syndrome,” a diagnosis not recognized by national psychological associations. While “post-abortion stress syndrome” may not be an officially recognized psychological diagnosis, there is ample evidence that abortion is linked to subsequent severe mental health problems. In September, 2011, Professor Priscilla Coleman published a paper in the British Journal of Psychiatry demonstrating tremendous increases in the risk of substance abuse, suicidal behaviors, and depression in women who had abortions. Is NARAL really suggesting that this scientifically-based information on the mental health risks of abortion should be hidden from women?
The third concern NARAL voices is that crisis pregnancy centers do ultrasounds, yet have no medical staff present. The report cites with alarm that “92% of the CPCs studied (61 of 66 CPCs) had no medical professionals on staff” and “35% (23 CPCs) provide ultrasounds on site.” In addition, NARAL is appalled that “Only 24% (16 CPCs) disclosed that they are not medical facilities.” As with the previous two charges, NARAL’s curious selection of facts and concerns raises more questions about their motives. The ultrasounds done by CPCs are not offered as diagnostic procedures; they merely give a mother a visual image of the child she carries in her womb. They are not used to assess the health of either the mother or the baby, and are given free of charge. Crisis pregnancy center volunteers may also help a woman accurately utilize an over-the-counter pregnancy test. Surely NARAL is not suggesting that licensed medical personnel must be present to offer a test that the FDA says any woman can do without medical supervision. This is in stark contrast to abortion clinics, where ultrasounds and other laboratory tests are sold as medical services, and therefore, should be performed by medical personnel. Further, if NARAL’s concern for the health and safety of women is so great, why does it oppose regulations that require abortion clinics to meet the same medical standards as other medical facilities?
CPCs are not intended to be medical clinics. They are centers of emotional and material support for women who are pregnant and are considering making a life-changing, and life-ending, decision. CPCs should not be required to publicly disclose they are not a medical facility any more than Planned Parenthood should be required to disclose it does not provide free diapers and maternity clothes.
The final charge by NARAL against CPCs is that they make religious arguments against abortion. In fact, the NARAL report considers it objectionable that CPCs encourage women to avoid sexual activity outside of marriage! They express outrage that “More than half of the 66 CPCs (59%) investigated are affiliated with Christian organizations and many use biblically-based arguments to encourage people to refrain from sex until marriage.” In some cases this may be true, but so what? Many crisis pregnancy centers are outreach ministries of religious groups. The First Amendment protects the speech of crisis pregnancy workers when they offer faith-based reasons to oppose abortion. It is unconscionable to suggest that such speech be silenced.
The word hypocrisy barely begins to describe NARAL Pro-Choice of North Carolina’s grossly misleading report, as it tries to paint crisis pregnancy centers as purveyors of inaccurate information. It is NARAL who offers half-truths and questionable-at-best information in its attack on the not-for-profit challengers of the abortion industry. In going after CPCs, NARAL seeks to take away alternatives to abortion. The attack fails ultimately because it cannot rely on truth to make its case, Unlike NARAL, crisis pregnancy centers care about the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of women. They want women to have the whole truth about abortion and to see the wisdom and beauty of choosing life.
Denise Hunnell, MD, is a Fellow of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. She writes for HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum.