LYNDEN, Washington -- A bill just introduced in my own state's legislature shows just how maddening the debate about abortion in the U.S. has become. Legally, America is an abortion-on-demand country. It has been so since the Supreme Court decreed it in 1973. Many people do not like this and have worked to change the law, but the brute fact remains. Yet unfettered abortion is not enough for some advocates of "choice."
Within this country's entirely pro-choice legal context and at great expense, millions of Americans have funded what are called crisis pregnancy centers. These are places that pregnant or might-be pregnant girls can come for pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, and support. These centers exist to help both mother-to-be and child. Crisis pregnancy centers often hook women up with free housing, prenatal care, and legal services. And they are reviled for their efforts.
Sometimes that revulsion takes legal form. This week, aptly named state senator Kevin Ranker reintroduced the Limited Service Pregnancy Center Accountability Act in the legislature in Olympia. He did so at the behest of various pro-choice groups, including NARAL, the ACLU, and especially Planned Parenthood. For years, pro-choice groups have attacked crisis pregnancy centers as "fake clinics" that offer women only "limited options" and don't offer abortion referrals. Clearly this must be curbed legally.
NARAL spokeswoman Lauren Simonds said on an interview on the Bellingham radio station KGMI that the point of the Act is "making sure that [Crisis Pregnancy Centers] are transparent." By transparent, she means a) stigmatized and b) heavily regulated. Pro-choice groups have been using the reintroduction of the Act to spread unsourced anonymous horror stories about crisis pregnancy centers and to preach the merits of the sort of "unbiased pregnancy information" they would get at Planned Parenthood clinics.
As Simonds said to KGMI host Dillon Honcoop, "the only [options women are] getting from limited service pregnancy centers are: carrying the pregnancy to term and having the child, keeping it [or] giving it up for adoption. Which is certainly an option that they would also get if they were referred to a family planning clinic. But in addition to that they would be told about their options for abortion."
Legally, what Simonds said is not the case at all. Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups are under no obligation to offer alternative counsel to abortion and in fact have some financial incentive to play up abortion as the only real way out. And the suggestion that pregnant American girls don't know about their rights on this one is just too absurd to take seriously. This is the nation of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and Juno and Dan Savage.
It might come as news to NARAL, but we also have this little thing called The Google. The first item the search engine returned when I went looking for "crisis pregnancy centers" was a page from the Feminist Women's Health Center. It warned me, "Beware of Antiabortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers."
And so I close with a warning of my own: Yes, if you are perhaps pregnant and not sure what to do, be careful about those folks at crisis pregnancy centers. They will help you figure out if it actually is the case. They will hold your hand and offer support: moral, legal, and material. They might help you break the news to family or find a doctor or hook you up with a free place to live. And before long you might think: Maybe it wouldn't be the end of the world to see this thing through.