Analysis Law and Policy

Rick Perry: Ideological Crisis Pregnancy Center Is the Future of the Texas Women’s Health Program

Andrea Grimes

On Tuesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry stopped by to lend a little good-old-boy masculinity to the opening of a branch of Houston's The Source For Women, a crisis pregnancy center that Perry touted as the future of Texas' new Women's Health Program--a program explicitly designed and intended to serve women who are not, and don't want to be, pregnant.

On Tuesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry stopped by to lend a little good-old-boy masculinity to the opening of a branch of Houston’s The Source For Women, a crisis pregnancy center that Perry touted as the future of Texas’s new Women’s Health Program—a program explicitly designed and intended to serve women who are not, and don’t want to be, pregnant.

“The Source for Women clinics, in fact, will be part of Texas’s own Women’s Health Program, and Planned Parenthood will not be,” Perry told the crowd at the pink-ified clinic, at which Texas Observer’s Emily DePrang reports he cut a giant hot pink bow “with an actual pair of oversized scissors.”

Problem is, currently, there is no overlap between the services provided by The Source and the services provided by the federally-funded Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which is being phased out so that Texas can exclude Planned Parenthood from participating and create a new, state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program.

And therein lies the core issue: The WHP does not serve pregnant women. By definition. But crisis pregnancy centers don’t like to provide contraception nor are their services evidence-based. So if the future of the Texas WHP is a crisis pregnancy center, then the future of low-income women in Texas will be pregnant, like it or not.

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The Source claims to provide well-woman exams, for example, but at the same time, doesn’t even offer an integral part of that exam: pap smears. (Either that, or they don’t know what a pap smear is, and they’re providing them without knowing it; plenty troubling, that.) According to its own website, the Source for Women also does not prescribe contraceptives. Neither does it presently provide mammograms or employ any OB-GYNs.

Sound familiar? It should—anti-choice folks love to spread lies that Planned Parenthood doesn’t practice real medicine and to confuse breast exams with mammograms—you’ll remember that from the whole Susan G. Komen Foundation dust-up earlier this year. (Planned Parenthood provides breast exams and refers for mammograms.) Despite the fact that the Source currently provides only limited, pregnancy-related medical care and STI screenings, Gov. Perry is holding up the ideologically-motivated crisis pregnancy center as the future of comprehensive reproductive medical care for low-income Texas women. He even told the crowd gathered on Tuesday that Texas is excited about helping them spread their beliefs.

“The opening of this latest medical center will enable you to spread your message,” he said, “and do your vital work, on a significantly larger scale in the years to come.”

To be fair to The Source, its CEO Cynthia Wenz told Rewire that they will eventually provide pap smears and some contraceptives. In order to be enrolled in the WHP, they’ll have to.

“Obviously, we can’t qualify for the WHP if we’re not doing all of the above,” she said in a phone interview. Right now, says Wenz, she’s looking to hire OB-GYNs and is talking with her board members about which contraceptives they feel comfortable making available to patients.

“It is still on the table at the board level as to which contraceptives will be provided,” she said, adding that no “abortifacients” will be available. That’s a term that has very specific meaning to crisis pregnancy centers and anti-choice activists, and it goes well beyond what the word might mean medically and biologically and to a layperson who assumes it deals with the termination of an existing pregnancy. Instead, anti-choice activists and crisis pregnancy centers consider almost all forms of hormonal contraception and even IUD’s to be “abortifacients,” asserting that the pill can cause a “very early abortion,” and that “the pill kills.” Same goes for Depo-Provera, Norplant, and the morning-after pill. So that basically eliminates all effective contraception.

Fact is, a place like The Source has no interest—indeed, a demonstrated disinterest—in women not being pregnant. What the Source does have an interest in is dictating to women, using sketchy non-science and thinly-veiled religious dogma, what it believes they should do with their bodies and what kind of medical care it is appropriate for them to receive. Why should a board of directors—a group of total strangers—decide what kind of contraception is appropriate for any woman to use?

Of course, abortion-related posturing is wholly unnecessary when it comes to the Women’s Health Program, again because the WHP does not cover pregnancy or pregnant women. According to a spokesperson for Texas’ Health And Human Services Department, it is “not making any changes to who the program serves,” meaning the program will continue to enroll only non-pregnant women.

No one in the WHP needs “life-affirming” pregnancy care, because no one in the WHP is pregnant—that is, if the new Texas WHP works the way it should. But if women’s contraceptive choices are limited to those dictated by the whims of a group of total strangers, and they’re counseled by nurses and doctors who consider hormonal contraception to be “abortifacients,” they may very well need pregnancy-related services.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Law and Policy

Three Crisis Pregnancy Centers Served for Breaking California Law

Nicole Knight Shine

The notices of violation issued this month mark the first time authorities anywhere in the state are enforcing the seven-month-old Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act.

The Los Angeles City Attorney is warning three area fake clinics, commonly known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), that they’re breaking a new state reproductive disclosure law and could face fines of $500 if they don’t comply.

The notices of violation issued this month mark the first time authorities anywhere in the state are enforcing the seven-month-old Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act, advocates and the state Attorney General’s office indicate.

The office of City Attorney Mike Feuer served the notices on July 15 and July 18 to two unlicensed and one licensed clinic, a representative from the office told Rewire. The Los Angeles area facilities are Harbor Pregnancy Help Center, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

The law requires the state’s licensed pregnancy-related centers to display a brief statement with a number to call for access to free and low-cost birth control and abortion care, and for unlicensed centers to disclose that they are not medical facilities.

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“Our investigation revealed,” one of the letters from the city attorney warns, “that your facility failed to post the required onsite notice anywhere at your facility and that your facility failed to distribute the required notice either through a printed document or digitally.”

The centers have 30 days from the date of the letter to comply or face a $500 fine for an initial offense and $1,000 for subsequent violations.

“I think this is the first instance of a city attorney or any other authority enforcing the FACT Act, and we really admire City Attorney Mike Feuer for taking the lead,” Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, told Rewire on Wednesday.

Feuer in May unveiled a campaign to crack down on violators, announcing that his office was “not going to wait” amid reports that some jurisdictions had chosen not to enforce the law while five separate court challenges brought by multiple fake clinics are pending.

Federal and state courts have denied requests to temporarily block the law, although appeals are pending before U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In April, Rebecca Plevin of the local NPR affiliate KPCC found that six of eight area fake clinics were defying the FACT Act.

Although firm numbers are hard to come by, around 25 fake clinics, or CPCs, operate in Los Angeles County, according to estimates from a representative of NARAL Pro-Choice California. There are upwards of 1,200 CPCs across the country, according to their own accounting.

Last week, Rewire paid visits to the three violators: Harbor Pregnancy Help Center, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

Christie Kwan, a nurse manager at Pregnancy Counseling Center, declined to discuss the clinic’s noncompliance, but described their opposition to the state law as a “First Amendment concern.”

All three centers referred questions to their legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an Arizona-based nonprofit and frequent defender of discriminatory “religious liberty” laws.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel with ADF, said in an email to Rewire that forcing faith-based clinics to “communicate messages or promote ideas they disagree with, especially on life-and-death issues like abortion,” violates their “core beliefs” and threatens their free speech rights.

“The First Amendment protects all Americans, including pro-life people, from being targeted by a government conspiring with pro-abortion activists,” Bowman said.

Rewire found that some clinics are following the law. Claris Health, which was contacted as part of Feuer’s enforcement campaign in May, includes the public notice with patient intake forms, where it’s translated into more than a dozen languages, CEO Talitha Phillips said in an email to Rewire.

Open Arms Pregnancy Center in the San Fernando Valley has posted the public notice in the waiting room.

“To us, it’s a non-issue,” Debi Harvey, the center’s executive director, told Rewire. “We don’t provide abortion, we’re an abortion-alternative organization, we’re very clear on that. But we educate on all options.”

Even so, reports of deceit by 91 percent of fake clinics surveyed by NARAL Pro-Choice California helped spur the passage of the FACT Act last October. Until recently, a person who Googled “abortion clinic” might be directed to a fake clinic, or CPC.

Oakland last week became the second U.S. city to ban false advertising by facilities that city leaders described as “fronts for anti-abortion activists.” San Francisco passed a similar ordinance in 2011.