WASHINGTON (BP)–With the Feb. 15 deadline looming for New York crisis pregnancy centers to hand over subpoenaed materials to the state attorney general’s office, eight of the pro-life centers began a counterattack, CNSNews.com reported Feb. 14.
Eight of the nine subpoenaed centers are filing their own lawsuits against Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in county courts statewide, asking judges to quash the subpoenas.
“The efforts of the attorney general are unwarranted, unnecessary and illegitimate, and ultimately they will fail to … uphold their attempts to quash our First Amendment free speech,” said Chris Slattery, head of Expectant Mother Care, one of the centers served with the subpoenas.
Lawsuits were filed in Utica and Buffalo, and others were expected in Long Island, Queens and Manhattan.
Spitzer began issuing subpoenas Jan. 4, claiming the centers “may have violated one or more … statutes by misrepresenting the services they provide, diagnosing pregnancy and advising persons on medical options without being licensed to do so, and/or providing deceptive and inaccurate medical information.” Although the centers are pro-life, they advertise their services only as “abortion alternatives.”
Originally, the centers were expected to provide copies of all advertisements, website addresses, services provided, staff who provide the services, training materials, blank forms, records of all agreements made, and a list of all persons who received any service from the clinics by Feb. 1. However, that deadline was extended to Feb. 15.
Darren Dopp, spokesman for Spitzer, said there were solid reasons for issuing the subpoenas. He said the evidence compiled thus far shows that some of the crisis pregnancy centers may have violated the standards for truthful advertising.
Dopp said a prime example is a crisis pregnancy center that advertises in Spanish-language newspapers with an ad that says “Gratis Aborto” (Free Abortion), and lists its phone number. Dopp said these ads are false since the crisis pregnancy centers do not perform abortions.
“As with those advertisements in the Hispanic paper, all we ask is that they stop that kind of advertising,” Dopp said, adding that the attorney general’s office is not seeking sanctions or penalties against the centers.
“We are not trying to present a financial hardship to anyone,” Dopp said, but rather are “trying to bring them into compliance with the law.”
But Slattery said any further restrictions on the language the centers use in their advertising are “an unconstitutional violation on our free speech.”
“We are arguing our speech is not commercial speech, and because we are nonprofit, we are not engaging in commercial business. We are engaging in a helping ministry that uses speech to primarily convey the help we have to offer.”
Slattery said the attorney general’s actions also are an attempt to cover for the pro-abortion lobby.
“The government does everything in its power to promote and support abortion, and is doing everything in its power to oppress an imposing counter-cultural view,” Slattery said. “[It’s] outrageous, and that’s the reason the First Amendment was established and why we have our freedom to practice our religion and power to speak for the unborn and mothers, to warn them of the serious consequences of having an abortion.
“Their effort here is nothing short of suppressing the pro-life message,” Slattery said.
A ninth crisis pregnancy center, Birthright of Victor, N.Y., has been quiet about whether it plans to furnish the information subpoenaed by Spitzer’s office. No one at Birthright could be reached for comment Feb. 14.
Pierce is a staff writer with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.