Council Members Give to Crisis Pregnancy Clinic
February 22nd, 2011
Funding for one Flushing-based pregnancy crisis center trickled into the City Council’s discretionary budget last year just before the speaker’s office drew up legislation to target the pro-life facilities.
The council is currently considering a controversial bill to force pregnancy crisis clinics to reveal in advertising and in their offices if they do not provide abortions or referrals and do not have licensed medical professionals on staff. There are about two dozen centers across the five boroughs.
One of them is The Bridge to Life in Queens. Republican Councilmembers Eric Ulrich and Dan Halloran allocated a portion of their member items to the group in June — $3,000 and $3,500 respectively. (Check out our new tool Councilpedia for more on the connections between legislation, member items and campaign contributions.)
According to the council’s member item database, the contributions are “to fund pregnancy counseling, testing and referrals” and for “pregnancy crisis counseling, free pregnancy tests, referrals to post abortion counseling. Referrals to Maternity homes and shelters. Material assistance of clothing, supplies, referrals for sonograms.” The funding was channeled through individual member items — not through the much larger “speaker pot.”
When The Bridge to Life’s executive director Marcy Sarosick was asked how the organization counsels pregnant women, she said: “[We first] ask how far along you are and explain that the fetus is not just a blob of tissues, and it’s a living human being.” She said the center would refer women to adoption services. Sarosick opposes the pregnancy crisis bill at the council, calling it “anti-First Amendment.”
Supporters of the bill say these crisis centers are deceptive and give the perception they perform all medical procedures. Staff have been known to walk around in scrubs although they are not medically trained.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been very vocal on the issue. According to insiders, the legislation could be up for a vote as soon as next month.
In an e-mailed statement in response to The Bridge to Life allocations, the speaker’s spokesperson, Maria Alvarado, said, “We stand fully behind Council member [Jessica] Lappin’s legislation. Allocations from individual council members are made at their discretion.”
When the bill comes to the floor, Ulrich said he won’t vote for it.
“I’ll be a voice on the floor against it when it does come up for a vote,” Ulrich said today. “If a young girl is walking into a convent, you think she is being duped?” One crisis center is run by nuns, Ulrich said.
This bill is one small example of the recently reinvigorated, fierce national debate on abortion clinics and their funding. Just today, the pro-life nonprofit, Life Always, installed a large anti-abortion billboard (pictured above) on Sixth Avenue and Watts Street in Manhattan. The provocative billboard shows a photo of a young black girl, and the message reads: “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
The message relects the claim by conservatives that Planned Parenthood targets minority neighborhoods. The billboard is part of a national campaign the group is kicking off today. Cuts are currently pending in Congress that would slash hundreds of millions of dollars from Planned Parenthood’s budget.
In response to the billboard, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio released the following statement:
“This billboard simply doesn’t belong in our city. The ad violates the values of New Yorkers and is grossly offensive to women and communities of color. Women of all backgrounds have a right to reproductive healthcare in New York City, and we must not let the current campaign of attacks undermine New Yorkers’ longstanding support for a woman’s right to choose. A mix of intolerance and bad judgment put this ad up — common decency demands it be taken down.”
In response to de Blasio’s statement, Life Always Communications Director Marissa Gabrysch sent over the following:
By Courtney Gross on February 22, 2011, 6:35 pm
“Since 1973, 13 million African Americans have been aborted in this country. That’s more than the combined total of deaths among African Americans from HIV, violent crimes, cancer, accident, and heart disease. (compiled CDC data) In 2007, Planned Parenthood made just 4,912 adoption referrals while aborting 305,310 babies – that’s 62 abortions for every adoption referral. (Planned Parenthood’s annual report) In a city as important as this one, with an abortion ratio (41 percent) that is nearly twice the national average, I believe it violates human decency to downplay what is happening.”
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