The War on Crisis Pregnancy Centers

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Nineteen-year-old Samantha Canteen felt she only had one option after finding out she was pregnant.

"It was so hard because I don't know how I'm going to tell my mom and I know she's going to be mad, I think that's why I wanted to abort my baby," Samantha said.

But that changed after Samantha visited a pregnancy center in Raleigh, N.C. - a place she thought performed abortions.

"When we walked in, we were scared. We didn't know what to expect," she recalled.

LifeCare pregnancy center doesn't provide or refer for abortions. Instead, volunteers here provide free pregnancy tests, sonograms and pre-natal care to hundreds of women in unplanned pregnancies.

"After I found out that they weren't an abortion clinic I just knew that oh they were going to tell me you have to keep this child, you can't abort this child, they'd just push God, God, God." Samantha said. "They weren't like that. They listened to me and they were just open arms and I really appreciate that."

Centers like LifeCare have been around for more than 30 years all across the country.

As part of recent coverage on lowering abortion rates, Time magazine highlighted the role of the pregnancy center.

Time wrote, "That would seem to be evidence that the quiet campaign for women's hearts and minds, conducted in thousands of crisis pregnancy centers around the country, on billboards, phone banks and Web sites is having an effect."

But if abortion rights supporters such as Planned Parenthood and others have their way, centers like LifeCare won't be available for women like Samantha.

For decades abortion providers and supporters have attacked pregnancy centers, seeking to discredit them. It's a battle many in the pro-life movement have come to expect.

Melinda Delahoyde is president of CareNet, a coalition of crisis pregnancy centers.

"This is not unexpected, when you're coming against abortion in America, and the hurt and the pain and the lives lost, the lives destroyed through that - there always going to be oppositions," Delahoyde said.

The latest opposition hit 42 Maryland pregnancy centers in the guise of an undercover investigation.

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland sent fake clients into the centers. Afterward, they claimed center volunteers misled pregnant women about the risks of abortion and the services they provide.

This resulted in NARAL using the findings to inspire several bills that would eventually force certain speech issues on pregnancy centers.

"Essentially what the Maryland bill would have done is forced pregnancy centers on first contact with the client is say 'I'm not going to provide you factually accurate information," said attorney Jeaneanne Maxon, who represented the pregnancy centers.

It would have been a clear violation of the law.

Maxon said there are several issues with the bills themselves. Among them: viewpoint discrimination.

"All of these bills are designed to apply to pregnancy resource centers only because they do not refer for abortions," she said. "It doesn't matter how professional a resource center is, it doesn't matter how great their staff is. They could have 100 percent client satisfaction rate, but these bills would still apply only because they don't refer for abortion. And that's called viewpoint discrimination.

Another issue that arises with some of the legislation, particularly the Maryland bill, is that of forced speech - a violation of free speech. And it doesn't stop there.

"They're also encouraging their supporters to request tax returns from pregnancy centers and that's interesting because that has nothing to do with services you provide for a woman," Maxon said.

"The only reason why you would request a tax return from a center," Maxon explained, "is try to trip them up, hope that they don't supply it and therefore make them subject to governmental fines and try to deplete their resources."

After testimony from the real clients from the centers, the hearing ended with high prospects for defeating the legislation - but Maxon warns the battle is far from over.

"Our opponents are going to continue to come after us," she said. "In fact we learned just this year that the feminist majority network hired a full time person just to coordinate attacks against pregnancy resource centers."

To that Delahoyde said, "I think our strongest defense and the defense we're continually promoting are our clients. I mean let the women speak."

They include women like Samantha back in North Carolina, who since giving birth to 4-month-old Jayden, has returned to college.

"My experience is wonderful. Just to have him and hold him in my arms I'm like 'look what God let me do' and I'm just so happy," Samantha said. "God gave me the chance to bring something so precious in this world and I have to thank God everyday."

They are words many in the pro-life movement believe will help them win in the end.

Maxon said, "I think they're afraid of the truth coming out about abortion. I think they're afraid because they see clients like the clients who testified before the Maryland State Legislature talking about how abortion is not an easy choice, how its life changing, how they have to deal with the scars of their abortion for the rest of their lives."

*Original broadcast October 7, 2008.

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Charlene Israel

Charlene Israel

CBN News Reporter

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