Tags: N.Y. | Tries | Douse | Firestorm | Over | Probe | Pro-Life

N.Y. Tries to Douse Firestorm Over Probe of Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers

Thursday, 31 January 2002 12:00 AM

"They seem to be backing off from their rhetoric because of the outpouring of support for centers from across the country," said Chris Slattery, the founder of Expectant Mother Care, which operates five centers in New York City and was the target of two of the subpoenas.

"We are still extremely disturbed by [the] attack, and will not be deterred from launching a vigorous legal and public relations defense," he told CNSNews.com's Jason Pierce.

Spitzer's attack on the centers provoked outrage from many pro-lifers nationwide. According to Pierce, more than 7,000 signatures have been gathered for a petition being sent to Spritzer, asking the attorney general to stop harassing the centers.

Among those protesting Spitzer's move was no less than the attorney general of South Carolina, Charlie Condon, who wrote Spritzer that his probe is an "ill-advised course of action." Condon also endorsed the pregnancy centers for their "outstanding work" and "great service to their communities." Joining Condon in blasting Spitzer was the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, Henry J. Mansell, who warned pro-lifers to be "watchful" to see if Spritzer will treat Planned Parenthood and abortuaries in the same way as the crisis pregnancy centers.

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

He added that Spitzer's probe might be the opening gun of a national campaign "to intimidate and to harass people who are in crisis pregnancy centers."

According to CNSNews.com, Spitzer set off the torrent of protests from across the nation when, without warning, he began issuing subpoenas to 24 crisis pregnancy centers around the state, with critics charging he was planning to shut them down, a long-sought aim of the billion-dollar abortion industry.

Not so, said Spitzer spokesman Darren Dopp, who insisted his boss was just trying to make sure the centers follow protocol in advertising and services.

"We are definitely not seeking to close down any facility," Dopp told CNSNews.com. "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.

He said that though Spitzer's office appreciated the work the centers do, he was obligated to look into the allegations.

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

According to Pierce, the probe was launched after complaints against the centers were lodged with Spitzer's office, one of which involved 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 her family's pastor.

Dopp claimed that the investigation was to determine whether the centers are practicing medicine without a license and enticing pregnant women into their facilities with deceptive ads. Nonsense, said Slattery, who charged that the probe was nothing less than "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."

Slattery charged that Spitzer was in collusion with the pro-abortion lobby, in particular National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, in investigating the pregnancy centers, which have deterred women from going to the abortion industry's "clinics" by providing alternatives and compassionate counseling.

NARAL's Web site echoes the group's resentment against the centers by featuring a program that asks women to take part in a study "to expose the true nature and tactics of deceptive crisis pregnancy centers."

Pierce disclosed that Spitzer was once asked to speak at a NARAL function, and was given a political contribution of $2,800 by the group. Dopp, however, denied that Spritzer's past dealings with NARAL have ever influenced 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 insisted. "We do not act in that way."

The investigation, he said, has been misunderstood and overblown to be an attack on the pro-life movement.

"We have a preliminary investigation under way, 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 we are 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.

In his letter to Spitzer, Condon, a candidate for Governor of South Carolina, explained why he was an ardent supporter of the centers.

"Crisis pregnancy centers soothe the pain, relieve the suffering and ease the trauma of women who are hurting," Condon wrote. "Those who operate these centers freely give of themselves with a helpful hand and a loving heart."

Condon warned that Spitzer's investigation might not only destroy a non-profit program that helps many women each year, but will discourage communities from volunteering to help those in need.

"Quite often, just meeting next month's rent or paying bills is a difficult task," Condon wrote. "Experiencing the heavy hand of the government investigation and facing the hassle of government subpoenas is undoubtedly a frightening experience for these individuals.

"That kind of one-sided power will inevitably discourage community service and volunteerism," he wrote. "I would respectfully request you to reverse your position and refocus your efforts."

By taking on the centers, Spitzer has opened himself up for a battle he may wish he'd never provoked, concluded Slattery.

"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."

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They seem to be backing off from their rhetoric because of the outpouring of support for centers from across the country, said Chris Slattery, the founder of Expectant Mother Care, which operates five centers in New York City and was the target of two of the subpoenas. ...
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2002-00-31
Thursday, 31 January 2002 12:00 AM
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