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Keep Heartbeat International out of Saranac Lake

To the editor:

“Thirty-five percent of suicidal behaviors among women may be attributable to abortion,” recites “Last Week Tonight”‘s John Oliver. “Abortion also doubles the risk of breast cancer.”

Oliver is reading out of a Heartbeat International handbook that the organization, which partners with more than a thousand “pregnancy centers” across the U.S. and even more internationally, provides to its affiliates. These include suggested scripts given to pregnancy center workers when they are assisting women who come to them potentially seeking out abortions. The facts that Oliver cites might surprise you, and they should. They’re completely false, or as Oliver more accurately puts it, “bulls**t.”

What kind of organization intentionally lies to women about pregnancy? Clearly one that is more interested in promoting an anti-choice agenda than putting women’s health first. And Heartbeat International is coming to Saranac Lake in the form of the Adirondack Pregnancy Center.

When I read Carolyn Koestner’s original letter to the editor about the Adirondack Pregnancy Center, the approval of the center by the Saranac Lake Development Board, and the sexist retort of board member Allie Pelletieri that Carolyn had a “big mouth” because of her concerns, I was appalled. Saranac Lake has a fairly liberal reputation, with a Democratic mayor, an all-Democratic board of trustees and an eye toward future climate sustainability. That’s one of the reasons why my parents, who’ve lived in Jay for the past 30 years, decided to relocate here.

Yet the village government has been oddly quiet about this new assault on women’s health. Little fuss has been made over the pregnancy center other than a concern about “the lack of parking.” A few weeks after his outburst, Pelletieri was reappointed to his position on the Development Board with zero concerns raised. These are alarming steps for a village that claims to have liberal values at heart.

If you’re concerned about the Adirondack Pregnancy Center, please speak up. If you’re not, you might want to do some research on crisis pregnancy centers. There’s a great AMA Journal of Ethics article (“Why Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are Legal But Unethical”) that details how these kinds of centers are able to pose as health facilities and get away with coercive tactics and outright lies without legal ramifications. An openDemocracy article (“Exclusive: Trump-linked religious ‘extremists’ target women with disinformation worldwide”) details Heartbeat International’s ties to the Trump administration and how the organization has taken its anti-choice agenda to “pregnancy centers” around the world.

Are we comfortable living in a town where a public official can call a concerned citizen a bigmouth and get away with it? Are we comfortable living in a town that allows fake health clinics to gaslight young women? Let’s make sure our voices are heard and get the plans for this ill-advised attack on women’s reproductive rights canceled immediately.

Sam Balzac

New York City and Saranac Lake

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