ST. PETERSBURG, Fla .– Next week, the St. Petersburg city council will reconsider funding for a South St. Pete pregnancy center that pro-choice activists say is an anti-abortion center.
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- In April, the St. Petersburg city council rejected a grant application from the Next STEPP Pregnancy Center
- Supporters of the rejection say the center’s mission violates a resolution last year that condemned “deceptive practices by” anti-abortion pregnancy centers “”
- Next STEPP officials reject these claims, saying they serve a niche that needs to be filled
- City council to review grant, along with 20 others, at its June 3 meeting
In April, the Council rejected grant applications from a group of 21 companies located in southern St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), although they appeared to have had a problem with only two of them – a Checkers franchise and the St. Pregnancy Center called Next STEPP Pregnancy Center on 22nd Avenue South.
This was after hearing a series of speakers say that the board should not fund the pregnancy center, saying it was in direct conflict. with a resolution passed last year that supports accessibility, affordability and safety of reproductive health care. This resolution also condemned the âdeceptive practices ofâ anti-abortion pregnancy centers â. “
âThey are an important part of the national pro-life movement, a multidimensional and relentless campaign to end access to abortion,â said Amy Weintraub, director of the reproductive rights program for Progress Florida.
Next STEPP is an affiliate of Care Net, a national non-profit organization that “empowers women and men considering abortion to choose life for their unborn children and fund an abundant life in Christ.” according to the group’s site.
âTheir mission is to find people who are considering abortion and to change their mind,â Weintraub explains.
Carole Alexander has been CEO of Next STEPP for over two decades.
“We offer life-affirming solutions, medical services, as well as physical, emotional and spiritual support to those experiencing unplanned pregnancy or other pregnancy or parenting issues,” he said. she told Spectrum Bay News 9 in an interview with her. Siege of southern St. Petersburg on Friday morning.
These services include free pregnancy tests, limited obstetric ultrasounds, STI and STD testing, referrals for healthy female exams for women who are not pregnant, and a host of on-line support services. education about pregnancy, parenthood and relationships.
She says her staff share three options when a pregnant woman visits STEPP: parenthood, adoption “and information about abortion and the abortion procedure.”
There are more than 2,700 pregnancy centers in the country, according to a report published by the Charlotte Lozier Institute last fall, and over 150 located in Florida.
A 2018 report by Amy G. Bryant and others in the Journal of Ethics of the American Medical Association said, “Although crisis pregnancy centers enjoy the protection of First Amendment rights, their spread of disinformation should be viewed as an ethical violation that harms women’s health.”
Alexander dismissed these criticisms, saying Next STEPP only fills a niche for the predominantly black community of South St. Pete.
âWe serve the community based on what the community wants, understands and needs,â she said. “We have better birth scores than county numbers because we serve in a way that meets need.”
âThere is a need for someone who addresses inequalities in birth outcomes and inequalities in child mortality,â Alexander added of the value of Next STEPP to the community.
Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman agrees. At the May 13 city council meeting, she called Next STEPP critics âliesâ.
âI went to the pregnancy center. I know what you all do, âshe said. “I wonder how many people have been in your center? ”
Alexander informed Bay News 9 on Friday that board chairman Ed Montanari had visited the center earlier today and board member Gina Driscoll had scheduled an upcoming meeting. Robert Blackmon, who resigned from the board earlier this week to run for mayor, said he supports funding for the center.
Prompted by criticism from Alexander and others at their May 13 meeting that they had been misinformed about Next STEPP’s mission, the board voted to review funding for the 21 proposed grantees for the grant program. CRA trade counterpart at their June 3 meeting.