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Women’s choice doesn’t seem to be pregnancy center’s priority

On March 17, The Adirondack Pregnancy Center introduced itself through a statement to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. I was relieved to see this because, like many other community members, I have been concerned with the lack of transparency that has been surrounding this project thus far.

In this statement they said, “The APC will provide services that empower a woman’s pregnancy choices. … Services will include consultation and education on ALL pregnancy options. … We will support women and men throughout the Adirondack region by providing accurate COMPLETE information on pregnancy-related topics. … We chose to affiliate with Heartbeat International. … We adopted Heartbeat’s Commitment of Care.” After reading this I thought, OK, that clarifies it a bit. But I still had my doubts about the authenticity of these statements. So I did a little research. The first thing I looked up was the obvious, Heartbeat International. The following is a direct quote from its website:

“Heartbeat International does promote God’s Plan for our sexuality: marriage between one man and one woman, sexual intimacy, children, unconditional/unselfish love and relationship with God must go together.

“Heartbeat International does promote sexual integrity/sexual purity before marriage and sexual integrity faithfulness within marriage.

“All Heartbeat International policies and materials are consistent with Biblical principles and with orthodox Christian (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) ethical principles and teaching on the dignity of the human person and sanctity of human life.”

The next thing I thought I should research was what other affiliations the board members of the APC have. One of the members is a pastor. I went on the Facebook page of the church where he pastors. The first video that pops up on that page is a slideshow featuring pictures of people rallying against abortion, holding up anti-abortion signs and protesting free choice. It struck me as quite controversial, and I was surprised that this was the highlight of a public church page. Another member of the board is a pastor’s wife. On the Facebook page of their church is a picture of a pamphlet outlining the Adirondack Pregnancy Center’s purpose. It says:

“Who We Are: Adirondack Pregnancy Center is a faith-based, life-affirming, self-sustaining, organization rooted in biblical Christianity, employing a charitable discipleship ministry model to those facing unplanned pregnancy related issues.

“Our Mission: To empower women and men throughout the Adirondack Region with LIFE AFFIRMING pregnancy options fulfilled through the sharing of Christ’s love…

“Our Objective: To strengthen family structures by providing authentic biblical guidance and instruction to participants and clients.”

After seeing all of this, it became clear to me that women’s health is not the number-one priority here. Spreading religious beliefs surrounding women choices about pregnancy takes precedence. Still reeling from what I had uncovered, I decided to do one more search. The following is a joint position statement of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine and the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology:

“Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) attempt to dissuade pregnant people from considering abortion, often using misinformation and unethical practices. While mimicking health care clinics, CPCs provide biased, limited, and inaccurate health information, including incomplete pregnancy options counseling and unscientific sexual and reproductive health information. The centers do not provide or refer for abortion or contraception but often advertise in ways that give the appearance that they do provide these services without disclosing the biased nature and marked limitations of their services. Although individuals working in CPCs in the United States have First Amendment rights to free speech, their provision of misinformation might be harmful to young people and adults. The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine and North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology support the following positions: (1) CPCs pose risk by failing to adhere to medical and ethical practice standards; (2) governments should only support health programs that provide accurate, comprehensive information; (3) CPCs and individuals who provide CPC services should be held to established standards of ethics and medical care; (4) schools should not outsource sexual education to CPCs or other entities that do not provide accurate and complete health information; (5) search engines and digital platforms should enforce policies against misleading advertising by CPCs; and (6) health professionals should educate themselves, and young people about CPCs and help young people identify safe, quality sources of sexual and reproductive health information and care” (Swartzendruber et al., 2019).

The intention of sharing this information publicly is not to cause a division in our community, but rather to share a totality of information. As a health care provider, it is my nature to research information presented to me, especially when it surrounds public health. Saranac Lake is a place of wellness. The practitioners in this area strive to provide holistic care based on evidenced-based research, and I believe I work with the best of the best.

In conclusion, let me leave you with one more bit of research from the American Nurses Association Guide to the Code of Ethics (2015): “In the 1800s and early 1900s … women were legally defined as chattel and denied suffrage. … There were laws against teaching about or possessing contraceptives. … The nursing association that formed 120 years ago has worked steadily for the correction of some of these ills including that of unjust discrimination.”

I hope the information I have presented here helps our community members make informed decisions about where they choose to seek out health care. Be well.

Laura Cunningham lives in Saranac Lake.

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