A Not Totally Unsympathetic Look at What Goes on In a Pregnancy Help Centers

By Dave Andrusko

I came to a piece that ran this week at slate.com, skeptical that “What Happens at a Pregnancy Help Center?  Tests and talking” would have any redeeming qualities. However, it appears Brian Palmer did a decent job, although I am by no means an expert on pregnancy help centers, also known as CPCs, and women-helping centers.

(Those of you who ARE experts, I’d appreciate your input. The story ran at www.slate.com/id/2289147 in the “Explainer: Answers to Your Questions about the News” column. Please write me at daveandrusko@gmail.com.)

The piece is not without problems. There is a bogus 2006 House committee report which imputed a laundry list of sins to “Pregnancy Resource Centers” that Palmer accepts uncritically.

It is quite true the National Cancer Institute insists there is no link between an induced abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer. But it is no less true that there many studies that document there IS a connection—an increased risk of 30%. To argue that there is what Dr. Joel Brind describes as the “ABC link” is neither “false” nor “misleading” information (to borrow from the title of the House committee report).

Likewise for another example of what Palmer calls “bad medical information”—that women having abortions “undermine their chances to get pregnant in the future.” This characterization is at one and the same time wrong and misleading.

On the one hand, as a factsheet from the NRLC Educational Department documents, “Women having abortions face more than a doubled risk of future sterility.”

And on the other hand, when these women do get pregnant there are mountains of published data that having undergone an abortion causes cervical incompetence and prematurity in subsequent pregnancies. Thus because of these increased risks associated with having an abortion, a woman’s chances of a successful pregnancy–and healthy infants—are reduced.

But on the plus side the “Explainer” helps someone new to the discussion to realize that the 3,000 or so pregnancy help centers, while affiliated for the most part with one of three major organizations, are small, grassroots enterprises with a great deal of autonomy.

For the most part the volunteers talk to women and offer them support at a time when many have been abandoned by the baby’s father and perhaps by the mother’s own family.

Most are faith-based—a true statement from Palmer. Also true is that not everyone agrees about everything—gosh, what a surprise!

And “The move to offer ultrasounds has been the biggest change in pregnancy help centers over the last 20 years.” I don’t know enough to know if that is the “biggest change,” but having an ultrasound available on site clearly has been a huge positive.

Finally, what Palmer unfortunately dubs “certain perks” is actually just an extension of a ministry that is dedicated to helping women after their baby is born. “They distribute maternity or baby clothes, basinets, or car seats to mothers in need. They may also place clients into GED or English classes.”

All in all, a helpful piece about wonderful people doing extraordinarily important work.

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