Crosshairs and Crosses

A woman looking for a crisis pregnancy center in the phone book would find one under the heading "abortion alternatives." The use of "alternative," which means "the choice between two mutually exclusive possibilities," is intended to let women know that crisis pregnancy centers don't offer abortions. But this isn't enough for Elliot Spitzer, the Attorney General of New York. Since the beginning of the new year, Spitzer's office has issued subpoenas to three crisis pregnancy centers in and around New York City. The subpoenas require that the centers provide the AG with "all advertisements, website addresses, services provided . . . and a list of all persons who received any service from the clinics" -- in other words, everything.   Well, why all the scrutiny? The subpoenas allege that centers, like Expectant Mothers Care, may have misrepresented "the services they provide" and "[diagnosed] pregnancy and [advised] persons on medical care without being licensed to do so." It also accuses the center of "providing deceptive and inaccurate medical information . . ."   Nonsense. Given what's at stake, centers like Expectant Mothers Care are careful to comply with the letter of the law. There's nothing in their ads that would cause women to believe that they perform abortions. What's really going on?   Chris Slattery, founder of Expectant Mothers Care, says the real goal is to make it impossible for crisis pregnancy centers to operate. He says that what Spitzer's office wants is for the centers "to put crosses in [their] ads, say we are pro-life, and [tell the public] 'don't call.'"   "And if a woman does call," Slattery adds, the Attorney General wants his centers to say "don't come in because we don't offer abortions."   Finally, if a woman does come in, Slattery says that what would make the attorney general happy is for counselors to say "please wait until we have a licensed professional to counsel you who will be morally neutral on abortion [and] will give you non- directive counseling."   Slattery's suspicions are reasonable since Spitzer campaigned for office by accusing the previous Attorney General of being "soft" on crimes committed against abortion clinics. Even more to the point, he promised the National Abortion Rights Action League that, if elected, he would create a "reproductive rights unit" to look into the "deceptive" practices of crisis pregnancy centers -- a unit he then staffed with abortion-rights activists.   In keeping his promises, Spitzer is using his powers in a way that, if the target weren't pro-lifers, liberals would be howling. If we were talking about anti-war activists, the kind of subpoenas being issued would be called "overly broad." There would be talk of a chilling effect on the constitutional rights of protesters.   But these are pro-lifers, so Slattery's on his own. But at least he can warn the rest of the pro-life movement that what's happening in New York can have a "ripple effect nationwide."   Christians must make their outrage at what's going on in New York known. Slattery is correct. If Spitzer succeeds, the tactic won't be confined to New York. We'll find that no amount of compliance with the law is enough for those who want to drive us out of existence.


Chuck Colson


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