New York Pregnancy Center aims to give women ‘real choice’

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NEW YORK—Days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, activists vandalized the downtown Brooklyn entrance of the Expectant Mother Care Frontline – a pregnancy support clinic – office building. Vandals spray painted the words “EMC is a fake clinic” in bright red capital letters.

Chris Slattery, a Catholic motivational speaker on the Maxwell’s management team, opened EMC in 1984 as the city’s first pregnancy center. The center aims to save unborn babies and provide free services to pregnant women and girls, especially those living in poverty. But critics say organizations like EMC deceive pregnant women seeking all options, including abortion, and these clinics have become the latest targets of vandalism, harassment and threats in the fight for the right to abortion.

According to Nicole Moore, director of Pregnancy Aid Inc., a group of protesters turned up at the entrance to the center late at night the same day the court announced its decision. The group spray-painted the front door, spelling out illegible blue letters, and smashed the glass front door. No one was hurt.

Organized opposition has targeted pregnancy centers in New York since the 1980s. In 1987, State Attorney General Robert Abrams has opened investigations at various pregnancy centers in New York due to “misleading advertising”. According NARAL Pro-Choice America, “Fake clinics do not willingly disclose their true nature to their ‘clients’, and it’s not hard to see why: if women knew that CPCs (Crisis Pregnancy Centers) only existed for dissuade them from considering their full range of reproductive health care options, especially abortion, they would avoid them altogether.

Abrams claimed that pregnancy centers, which are generally run by anti-abortion organizations and do not offer abortions, are “dangerous” and “harmful”.

A new report from the Religious Liberty Institute found that from May 2 – when a leaked Supreme Court draft indicated the overturning of Roe v. Wade – through August 2022, vandals attacked at least 63 anti-abortion organizations in 26 states.

“When I opened my first pregnancy center in New York, the New York Times and New York-based abortion advocates have become aware of the presence of pregnancy centers,” Slattery said. “(Abortion rights advocates) had a near-complete monopoly on pregnancy and abortion counseling for 15 years, with no pro-life interventions.”

Slattery’s idea for the center was to provide first responders to pregnant women who could offer pregnancy tests, on-site ultrasounds, anti-abortion counseling, nearby subsidized prenatal care, on-site adoption consultations. , referrals for housing, legal aid and material assistance – all at no cost to the client. According to its website, EMC is funded solely by corporate and private donors and accepts donations of baby items, toys and diapers to give to customers.

EMC was the first pregnancy clinic to have mobile clinics, use 3D and 4D ultrasound, and have real-time 3D imaging at every nurse-staffed location.

Although it is not advertised as a faith-based organization, most staff members are Christian, Protestant or Catholic, and carry Bibles with them to the clinic. They often ask customers what religion they identify with and tell them that Jesus loves them regardless of their decision. EMC does not support abortion. Few staff and trainees were heard to use condemning language such as “you’re going to hell” when speaking with women who are determined to have abortions. However, most EMC employees avoid speech that condemns or shames the customer.

“We have to be very sensitive to their religious beliefs,” said a nurse who wished to remain anonymous. “We cannot talk about Jesus, God and the devil. It’s just going to shut someone down.

At EMC and similar anti-abortion centers, pregnant women begin their visit in the counselor’s office. The counselor tries to understand the wants, concerns, and needs of the client in order to offer the best unique solution to the individual given their background and current situation.

“What I love is that you really get a sense of who the customer is,” said Iman Essiet, consultant and intern at EMC and host of the Loud conversation podcast. “I think that sets us apart, obviously, from other organizations that promote choice because it’s not really a choice that you’re giving them.”

Essiet said she had abortions at Planned Parenthood and compared the experience to services offered at EMC.

“And I can say that every time I had an abortion, I just felt like a number or like some kind of assembly line,” she said. “And that’s what sets us apart from these other places because we really sit like, ‘Okay, what’s your name, where are you from? Who are you?'”

EMC primarily works with women and girls living in poverty and/or with undocumented immigration status, according to Essiet. Regardless of the client’s situation, EMC strives to provide the resources these women and girls need, including the means to find housing if their home is unsafe, to bring family members into the countries and to access specific items such as diapers. EMC advisors very rarely mention adoption as an option. Adoption is considered a last resort.

After counseling, the client then sees the licensed practical nurse. EMC is not a medical clinic. There are no doctors, no surgeries or abortions, and no one to offer prescription drugs, but nurses can offer referrals. In private rooms, nurses talk with clients about their medical history, stages of pregnancy, and how to stay healthy after deciding whether or not to continue the pregnancy. For example, nurses recommend prenatal vitamins or follow-up if client chooses abortion, such as encouraging appointments with OB/GYN and mental health professionals and seeking medical attention after using abortion pills.

“We try to ask them if they have family support if they decide to keep (the baby),” said an EMC registered nurse who asked to remain anonymous due to threats. “But we have some people coming in who are 100% abortion related. And we have to respect that. … We just talk to them about taking care of themselves, whatever decision they make.

After taking a pregnancy test and speaking with the nurse, the next step is a free ultrasound with the certified ultrasound technologist. In cases where the client is not interested in seeing the ultrasound themselves, they are asked to look away from the screen. Yet ultrasound is more than just a tool to connect with the fetus.

“What I love about working here is that everyone has a story,” said the EMC ultrasound technologist, who also asked to remain anonymous due to the threats. “And girls don’t really know they have options when there are. So I’m thinking of just bringing that to light and letting them know that someone cares about you, or there’s people out there who can talk to you, or there’s a place you could stay if your mom tells you put out the door. In that sense, I think the program works. I’ve seen a lot of women change their minds. In the ultrasound, you could hear the heart. For me, this confirms that the pregnancy is there and that it is real.

According to the ultrasound technologist, most clients look forward to the ultrasound. Babysitters love to hear heartbeats and take pictures. Those who choose to abort need an ultrasound to see where they are in the pregnancy and determine what procedure they can follow.

According to a crisis pregnancy center map Created by Andrea Swartzendruber and Danielle Lambert of the University of Georgia’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, there were about 92 total clinics in New York City and about 16 centers in New York City in 2018.

A study conducted by the Charlotte Lozier Institute by Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, founded in 1992, shows that in 2019, pregnancy centers nationwide served approximately 2 million people and provided material assistance worth more than $266 millions of dollars.

care net, one of the largest networks of pregnancy centers in North America, surveyed its clients in 2019. The clinic says that on average, in 2,100 pregnancy centers nationwide and 73 centers in New York City, 99.19% of customers and patients report an overall positive experience.

In the past, the judicial branch of the New York government has protected the rights of pregnancy centers. In 2016, a federal district court approved a settlement which protected the free speech rights of New York pregnancy centers. The trial, New York Pregnancy Care Center v. New York City, was filed over the unconstitutionality of a local law that required anti-abortion facilities to “clearly disclose whether there is a licensed medical provider on site; whether they provide abortion, emergency contraception and prenatal care; or if they provide referrals for these services. If a center didn’t, they were fined anywhere $200 to $2,500. EMC received two fines for refusing to post posters in person and online.

Although this law is no longer in effect, abortion rights efforts to minimize access to anti-abortion alternatives continue. Current New York Attorney General Leticia Jones called Google fixes its search engines and differentiate between anti-abortion centers and abortion clinics.

“Given the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, it’s more important than ever that New York stands firm in providing safe access to abortion,” Jones said. “New Yorkers and others traveling in the state should be confident that Google Maps will provide accurate information and direct them to real and safe care. My office will do whatever is necessary to work with Google to make these changes and ensuring that people can locate the reproductive health care facilities they need.

Google did not remove pregnancy clinics from search engines and Google Maps. However, to reduce the spread of misinformation, the the company has decided to label searches with “does not provide abortions” and “provides abortion” online and with “abortion clinic” and “pregnancy care center” on Google Maps.

The suggested solution might ultimately be to make room for both.

“If you have a government-sponsored (pregnancy center) and Planned Parenthood side-by-side, then you’re giving these women a real choice,” the EMC nurse said. “Where they can go take a minute and think about what they actually want to do. … We don’t hurt these girls. We don’t shame them, we don’t hurt them. We want them to have a real choice.

Myrian Garcia is a student at King’s College majoring in Journalism, Culture and Society. She attends the New York City Semester in Journalism Program, where she previously interned at amNY Daily.

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