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“Unconscionable” – Pennsylvania AG misrepresents pregnancy centers, seeks to prompt complaints

by | Dec 15, 2023

By Tabitha Goodling

The Pennsylvania Attorney General has created a wider path on the roadway to closing Pennsylvania pregnancy centers. 

Attorney General Michelle Henry posted a complaint form on the state website so that “pregnant people and other consumers” can make accusations about these centers. Those making the complaint will remain anonymous, but the centers will be named and listed for the public to view. 

The form on the website is labeled as “Report Reproductive Health Deceptive Activity,” where a complainant can choose to be contacted by the Attorney General’s office or remain anonymous. 

Henry’s office issued a press release the day after Thanksgiving making Pennsylvanians aware of this opportunity, inferring in it that pregnancy centers do not provide accurate information. The AG also falsely claimed in the press release that pregnancy help organizations are not staffed by medical professionals and thus “cannot provide medical care.”

Pregnancy help centers that have a medical director are medical clinics with medical professionals on staff or available as volunteers, providing limited ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, STD testing, and more.

The latest findings on pregnancy centers from the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) released in 2020 showed that 79% of U.S. pregnancy centers are “medical” and that “in 2019, 10,215 licensed medical staff and medical volunteers were providing care at pregnancy center locations around the United States.” 

Still, Henry’s office opted to propagate a falsehood often used by abortion proponents to debase pregnancy help organizations.

“Many facilities known as crisis pregnancy centers or pregnancy resource centers, for example, are not staffed by licensed medical professionals and therefore cannot provide medical care,” the Henry statement said in part. “In Pennsylvania, only licensed medical professionals can provide medical care such as diagnostic ultrasounds, pre-natal screening tests, or abortion services.” 

This is yet another step by the administration in Pennsylvania to make pregnancy centers non-existent. Earlier this fall Governor Josh Shapiro removed funding for Real Alternatives, an organization that has supported some 30-plus pregnancy centers across the state for decades, ultimately serving hundreds of thousands of women. 

Heartbeat International Vice President of Ministry Services Tracie Shellhouse weighed in on the harmful scenario created for Pennsylvania centers by the Shapiro administration by its opening the door for potential attacks against pregnancy help via the anonymous online complaint form. Heartbeat is the largest network of pregnancy help organizations in the U.S. and internationally.

“The Shapiro administration’s website prompting complaints against pregnancy centers through examples is concerning, and smacks of suggestion and manipulation,” Shellhouse said. “This tactic can influence submissions, risks steering the narrative in a prejudiced direction, undermines the objectivity and fairness of any assessment, and more importantly, makes way for false claims and reviews which has been a well-used tactic of those who are pro-abortion to undermine, and skew public opinion of the selfless service provided by pregnancy help organizations to women and their communities.”   

collaborative of Pennsylvania centers’ executive directors has been keeping a close watch on the issues in the state. The Pregnancy Wellness Collaborative (PPWC) issued a press release in which Henry’s assertions were countered with facts.

“Without any evidence cited, (Henry’s) “consumer advisory” recklessly warns against pregnancy centers claiming that medical services are being administered by non-medical personnel,” the statement said. “The advisory also directs readers to a place to report “misleading and deceptive conduct by Crisis Pregnancy Centers.”  Examples given of alleged misconduct include misrepresenting services, delaying reproductive health services through duplicative tests, and/or hidden fees. Let’s take a moment to fact-check our Attorney General.” 

The PPWC statement then detailed specifics of pregnancy center services, noting first that centers in the commonwealth are trusted, having delivered services and resources for over 50 years and that none of the centers in Pennsylvania have broken the Truth in Advertising Laws or ever been given a warning on such.

“Instead,” the statement reads, “these vital centers are part of the health network in Pennsylvania that works to lower maternal and infant mortality, provide support and resources to families, and fill the gaps in practical, ongoing care for young families.”

Pregnancy centers are “first responders” for newly pregnant women, PPWC said, noting that centers focus on maternal and fetal health by providing services that cultivate early pregnancy education and ongoing postnatal support. 

“Pregnancy centers intervene to address racial and economic disparities by offering education and mentoring in rural, urban, and underserved neighborhoods,” the statement pointed out.

PPWC went on to confirm that medical services such as ultrasounds are indeed performed by licensed professionals for the purpose of identifying a pregnancy in the uterus as well as viability and gestation. Clients are given informed consent and are guaranteed HIPPA compliance.

The pregnancy help coalition also listed the latest statistics from 2019 on pregnancy help services performed in Pennsylvania:

• Over 91,000 baby items were distributed, including free car seats, cribs, diapers, etc.

• Over 10,000 STD/STI tests were administered.

• Over 9,000 ultrasounds were performed by a registered nurse or medical sonographer.

PPWC said Henry needs to be informed about pregnancy centers before jumping to conclusions.

“It is unconscionable that the attorney general of Pennsylvania should be misrepresenting the work of pregnancy centers and eliciting complaints from Pennsylvanians,” PPWC President Sarah Bowen said. “Pregnancy centers are good for Pennsylvania and good for America.” 

Editor’s note. This appeared at Pregnancy Help News and is reposted with permission.