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.”
In comparison, Planned Parenthood of New York City was allocated $365,000 in council discretionary funds last year.
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.”
By Courtney Gross on February 22, 2011, 6:35 pm
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