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N.Y. attorney general downplays inquiries to pregnancy centers

WASHINGTON (BP)–The New York attorney general’s office is seeking to extinguish a firestorm sparked by an investigation into 24 crisis pregnancy centers statewide, CNSNews.com reported Jan. 30.

Beginning Jan. 4, Eliot Spitzer’s office began issuing subpoenas to several New York City crisis pregnancy centers which have been in existence since the early 1980s offering women a variety of options to deal with their unwanted pregnancies, options other than abortion.

Spitzer’s spokesman, Darren Dopp, said allegations that the attorney general’s investigation is trying to intimidate or close down the pregnancy centers are simply untrue. What Spitzer is trying to do, Dopp said, is to ensure the centers are following proper protocol in their advertising and services.

“We are definitely not seeking to close down any facility,” the spokesman said. “Should we find a problem, we would work with the facilities to bring them into compliance.

“Just as our previous attorneys general, we would see if this is a problem, and bring them into compliance ourselves, but if need be, we will accomplish this through a court order,” he said.

Dopp also said the attorney general’s office appreciates the work the centers do, but Spitzer is obligated to look into the allegations made against the centers.

“We are aware that the facility does provide services that many people view as valuable,” the spokesman said. “And we think it is valuable, too.”

The investigation was instigated by several complaints, most notably one involving a pregnant girl on Long Island who was allegedly held in a crisis pregnancy center against her will, so that she could be confronted by her father and the family’s pastor.

Spitzer’s office claims the investigation into the crisis pregnancy centers is to determine whether they are practicing medicine without a license and enticing pregnant women into their facilities with deceptive ads.

Seven subpoenas were issued to pregnancy crisis centers in and around New York City, with a Feb. 1 deadline for the centers to provide the attorney general with copies of all advertisements, website addresses, services provided, staff who provide the services, training materials, blank forms and records of all agreements made.

The deadline has since been extended to Feb. 15 as “a demonstration of us trying to recognize that we might create a burden on some of the facilities,” Dopp said. “We always try to work in good faith with anyone who works in good faith with us.”

Chris Slattery, the founder of Expectant Mother Care, which operates five centers in New York City, has received two of the subpoenas for centers he founded. He calls the investigation “an attack on the heart and soul of the pro-life movement’s compassionate wing.”

“We think many of the demands amount to a witch hunt,” Slattery said. “We think the whole campaign is harassment, is discrimination against obviously [the] pure side of the abortion battle.”

The investigation has sparked outrage from many pro-lifers nationwide. More than 7,000 signatures have been gathered for a petition being sent to Spitzer, asking the attorney general to lay off the centers.

Bishop Henry J. Mansell of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo joined the fray Jan. 22 on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, telling pro-lifers to be “watchful” as to whether Spitzer will treat Planned Parenthood and abortion facilities in the same way as the pregnancy crisis centers.

“We want to be sure that similar examination is being made of the abortion clinics,” Mansell said.

The bishop added that the investigation may be part of a national campaign “to intimidate and to harass people who are in crisis pregnancy centers.”

Slattery echoed the bishop’s sentiment, saying that abortion clinics are “the ones that need to be investigated” and that they “have had free ride in this state for too long.”

Dopp said such an investigation would be implemented if, and when, there were complaints about the facilities.

“Should there be a complaint about the [abortion clinics], we would obviously review that complaint and act accordingly,” he said. “The key issue is that the Planned Parenthood facilities are regulated very closely by the state health department. They are medical facilities that are inspected with some regularity.”

Slattery also has accused Spitzer of being in collusion with the pro-abortion lobby, in particular the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), in the investigation of the pregnancy centers.

On NARAL’s website, the group features a program in which they ask women to take part in a study “to expose the true nature and tactics of deceptive crisis pregnancy centers.”

Spitzer was once asked to speak at a NARAL function and was given a political contribution of $2,800 by the group. Dopp said Spitzer’s past dealings with NARAL have in no way influenced the direction of the investigation.

“We try to do things in a nonpartisan way, and we try not to use our office to advance political agendas,” Dopp said. “I don’t know how $2,800 contribution affects the policy of the state’s attorney general’s office in the New York State Department of Law.

“We have never talked to [NARAL] about this particular subject, and they never have come in and said this is a priority so please do it,” he said. “We do not act in that way.”

Dopp said the investigation has been severely misunderstood and overblown to be an attack on the pro-life movement.

“We have a preliminary investigation underway and we have developed some indication that there could be a problem at some of the centers,” he said. “In the end, if we find a remarkable smoking gun, what are we going to do, we are going ask them to work with us to bring them into compliance.

“It is terribly frustrating, in the end we wish people would judge us by [what] the outcome is, not the request for information,” Dopp concluded.

However, Slattery doesn’t buy it, and said he and his supporters have no intention of backing down from the fight.

“They seem to be backing off from their rhetoric because of the outpouring of support for [the] centers from across the country,” Slattery said. “We are still extremely disturbed by [the] attack, and will not be deterred from launching a vigorous legal and public relations defense.

“They have opened a humongous Pandora’s box. The genie is not going back into the bottle,” he said. “They are going to be extremely sorry they went after this David, because we are going after their Goliath.”
Pierce is a staff writer with www.cnsnews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Jason Pierce