Friday, April 21, 2006

Pro-Choice? More reasons to stay out of the cultural battle on abortion

The lonely libertarian had the following e-mail forwarded to him the other day:

When a 17-year-old Indiana girl walked into what she thought was a Planned Parenthood clinic, her mother and boyfriend beside her, she never imagined that it was a trap — a deceitful setup by anti-choice zealots.
You can read her alarming story below — including how people from the fake clinic came to her high school and publicly humiliated her — but it's not an isolated incident.
The anti-choice movement is setting up so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" across the country. Some of them have neutral-sounding names and run ads that falsely promise the full range of reproductive health services, but dispense anti-choice propaganda and intimidation instead. And according to The New York Times, there are currently more of these centers in the U.S. than there are actual abortion providers!
A bill has just been introduced in Congress to stop the fraudulent practices of fake clinics, but it desperately needs more support.
Tell your representative to take a stand: anti-choice extremists must not get away with this any longer!
The Story: An Indiana mother recently accompanied her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend to one of Indiana's Planned Parenthood clinics, but they unwittingly walked into a "crisis pregnancy center" run by an anti-abortion group — one that shared a parking lot with the real Planned Parenthood clinic, and was designed expressly to lure our patients and deceive them.
The group took down the girl's confidential personal information and told her to come back for her appointment, which they said would be in their "other office" (the real Planned Parenthood office nearby). When she arrived for her appointment, not only did the Planned Parenthood staff have no record of her, but the police were there — the "crisis pregnancy center" had called them, claiming that a minor was being forced to have an abortion against her will.
The "crisis pregnancy center" staff then proceeded to wage a campaign of intimidation and harassment over the following days, showing up at the girl's home and calling her father's workplace. Our clinic director reports that she was "scared to death to leave her house." They even went to her school and urged classmates to pressure her not to have an abortion.
This cruel and fraudulent behavior shows exactly what's behind the proliferation of these centers. That's why this new bill is so important: it would make it illegal for any entity to advertise abortion services if it does not provide such services.
Worse yet — the Bush administration has used $60 million in taxpayer dollars to fund these propaganda machines. This has got to stop!
Help bring attention to this outrageous practice. Please contact your representative today!
With your help, we can put an end to the fraud and deceit that women across America are facing in their most vulnerable moments.
Cecile Richards
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Something about the e-mail didn't seem quite right - namely the claim that there are more fraudulent anti-choice centers throughout the country then there are actual abortion providers. The picture the e-mail paints is frightening, almost too frightening to be true.

First stop in my investigation, the bill itself, H.R. 5052, available here. (Just input the number of the bill in to the search function.) The important part of the bill:


(a) Conduct Prohibited- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Trade Commission shall promulgate rules to prohibit any person to advertise with the intent to deceptively create the impression that such person is a provider of abortion services if such person does not provide abortion services .

(b) Enforcement- The Federal Trade Commission shall enforce the rules required under subsection (a) as if a violation of such rules were a violation of section 5(a)(1) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45(a)(1). The Commission shall enforce such rules in the same manner and by the same means, powers, and duties as though all applicable terms and provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act were incorporated into and made a part of this Act.

The second part of the investigation? Discovering just what these pregnancy crisis centers actually are. It turns out, these are the Pro-Life movement's answer to abortion clinics, providing alternatives to abortion for poor and unmarried pregnant women. The letter attempts to connect all of these organizations to this one incident, with no evidence offered to support this assertion. These "pregnancy crisis centers" that outnumber abortion service providers are perfectly legitimate organizations, and absent any other evidence, the incident described in the letter is likely not the rule, but the exception.

Now, this proposed act could have two possible effects. One would be negligible, in that it would prohibit the sort of fraud that is already prohibited by existing law. For example, the scenario mentioned in the Planned Parenthood letter is certainly illegal under existing law. The other effect would be further reaching, looking to limit or possibly restrict the ability of these Pro-Life organizations to advertise their services. Perhaps the law could even be used to restrict the use of the term "pregnancy crisis center."

Basically, either the law is completely unnecessary, or open to potential abuses. Because regardless of your views on abortion, Pro-Life groups certainly have the right to offer alternatives to abortion, as part of their right to discourage women from turning to abortion.

This is why the lonely libertarian stays out of the abortion debate as much as possible. Either this proposed law is unneeded, or is the antithesis of "choice."


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