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American Medical Association Publishes Hit Piece on Pregnancy Centers, Ignoring the Facts

It’s unlikely you picked up the March issue of the American Medical Association (AMA) Journal of Ethics for a bit of light reading. But if you had, you might wonder why two medical doctors are opining on the legality of pro-life pregnancy resource centers (or “crisis pregnancy centers,” as the authors refer to them). Though the doctors (non-lawyers, mind you) say that “[t]he question of whether CPCs are ‘legal’ is complicated,” they do begrudgingly conclude that, “[a]s nonprofit organizations, CPCs have the right to exist.”

Well, of course.

What’s the point of such an article? A closer look reveals that it’s a thinly veiled hit piece on pro-life pregnancy centers, written by two abortion proponents and unsupported by facts.

A line-by-line fact check would take too long, given the number of unsubstantiated misstatements. But one thing the authors get right is that pro-life pregnancy centers don’t perform or refer for abortions. That seems to be the entire basis for the authors’ claim that pregnancy centers are “unethical.”

The authors’ beef with pregnancy centers is two-fold:

1. By not encouraging or offering abortion, the centers are supposedly harming women because abortion is “safer” than childbirth. Also, pregnancy centers tell women about the health risks and consequences of abortion.

Never mind that a majority of states, like Florida and Michigan, have laws requiring this exact kind of information be provided to women undergoing abortion as part of informed consent. The authors don’t like this accepted science because it may encourage pregnant mothers to choose life.

2. Women might be “less likely to have and achieve aspirational goals” if they are “unable” to obtain abortions based on delay or confusion from interacting with a pregnancy center.

This is an insulting view of women, to say the least. Pregnant women (of which I am one) are perfectly capable of asking, “Can I get an abortion here?” – face to face or by picking up the phone and calling in advance. And women obviously achieve all sorts of life goals while also being mothers.

In reality, pregnancy centers offer a message of hope and support for women.

They provide expectant mothers with practical resources, information, and emotional support needed in order to welcome their babies into the world. Diapers, formula, bottles, maternity clothes, parenting classes, childbirth education, and much more – all free of charge.

But the AMA article’s authors don’t like that, either. They call this charitable outreach “unethical” because, in their view, it targets “low-income women and women of color, adolescents, and women with less formal education.” Then, they take it even a step further, calling this outreach a “violation of justice” because, for reasons left unexplained, it “may propagate racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequities.”

Forget that, for many women, pregnancy centers make motherhood a real possibility, offering free resources to those most in need, empowering them to have a real choice to continue their pregnancy, and leading to the blessing of raising a child.

The authors also claim pregnancy centers aren’t held to an ethical standard of care because they aren’t licensed medical practices; but that’s not true, either. Many pregnancy centers employ licensed medical professionals, and all pregnancy centers are subject to state laws prohibiting consumer deception, unlicensed practice of medicine, and so on. The article doesn’t cite a single instance of a pregnancy center violating any regulation, ever or anywhere.

But, the authors lament, abortion clinics are subject to “innumerable restrictions.” Yes – that’s because abortion clinics perform serious medical procedures with very real risks and that almost always result in the death of an unborn baby. Pregnancy centers don’t.

And as if all of the false and misleading information in this article were not enough, the doctors conclude with bad legal advice. They suggest that, in the interest of ethics, healthcare professionals should support laws like California’s Reproductive FACT Act, which targets pro-life pregnancy centers for disfavored treatment and compelled speech. This is a dubious recommendation, considering that the Supreme Court is currently scrutinizing that law as unconstitutional in a case that Alliance Defending Freedom argued in March.

It seems the doctors have adopted one legal tactic, after all: “If the facts and the law are against you, pound the table and yell louder.”

Denise Harle

Legal Counsel

Denise Harle serves as legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a member of the Center for Life.

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