Issues We Should Debate: Crisis Pregnancy Centers

The frontline in the abortion wars is no longer the Supreme Court. If Roe v. Wade was overturned tomorrow, most states would enact its provisions legislatively. Some might include restrictions on late term abortions, which would be a fine thing, but most abortions are not late term. Crisis pregnancy centers, such as those run by CareNet, have become the new battlefront and it is one where both parties can find common ground if they are willing to say no to their more extreme partisans. Pro-choice forces are highly critical of crisis pregnancy centers. They charge that they try to manipulate women, and deny them accurate information about abortion and its consequences, all in an effort to persuade pregnant women to carry their child to term. They also see these centers as an alternative to the network of Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics that were set up immediately after Roe to ensure access to abortion. People forget that abortion is now an industry, and people will fight to hold on to their livelihoods. Pro-life forces see crisis pregnancy centers as a way to lower the number abortions by reaching out to women who feel they have no economic or social alternative to the "easy" choice to abort. These centers correctly point out that many women suffer from post-abortion trauma, and that carrying a child to term and giving it up for adoption is not an easy choice but it is an heroic one. Most importantly, these centers could be described as "pro-choices," in the plural, because they make sure that a woman knows there are alternatives but they do not deny the legal right of women to have one. Republicans can usefully embrace these centers as expressions of compassion that help women in a difficult situation. Democrats can usefully embrace these centers for making sure a woman knows that she has alternatives. Both parties should ensure that government funding only goes to centers that provide accurate information to women, but they should see these centers as a way to lower the abortion rate in America. That is a goal everyone can embrace. Democrats should stand up to the most radical pro-choice groups that seek to deny government funding, or even to use government regulations to close the crisis pregnancy centers, because the centers state their preference for alternatives to abortion. Women aren’t dumb: they can find their way to a Planned Parenthood clinic if they wanted to. The Church and other groups have a constitutional right, as well as a moral obligation, to reach out to women who are facing a crisis pregnancy, but the Church has no obligation to deny its teachings when it does so. Like the story of the rich young man in the Gospels, if women chose to walk away sad from the offer of help in carrying their child to term, the Church cannot stop them. But, the Church and others concerned about protecting human life have just as strong an obligation to state clearly why they believe abortion is the wrong choice and to offer alternative choices. The dignity of women is in no ways infringed by these crisis pregnancy centers. It is doubtful that any of this will get discussed in the 2008 election. Obama has no interest in discussing anything but the economy and McCain can only win if national security is at the center of the debate. But, the ground is shifting on this important national issue, and staking out a stance now would help the eventual winner to resist the pressure from the extremes after the election. Michael Sean Winters
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10 years ago
I am not familiar with crisis pregnancy centers but I cannot object to them if they really do what the article says and don't badger women, for one position or another. But do they help with birth control also? My biggest problems with the Church's position on this whole issue is its opposition to birth control methods other than "the rhythm method". Catholics don't pay any attention to the official teachings any more; they just don't tell the priests. While abortion is sinful, no one much believes birth control is. And the argument that 'every act has to be open to conception' is archaic. So I am pro-choice and don't judge politicians on one issue.
10 years 1 month ago
The front line of the pro-life movement as well as the movement for freedom is still overturning Roe v Wade. President Bush has delivered on two mediocre Justices who might vote in line with Scalia and Thomas. Despite the bad that came with the Bush administration, this alone makes him still a better choice than Al Gore or Kerry, the Vietnam Vet. We need one more. That is why an Obama presidency would be disastrous. However, that is what Republicans have been telling pro-lifers for many years without producing any concrete results for the pro-life movement. I think pro-lifers are weary of pulling the R-bar and gaining no ground in their fight.

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