Pro-Life Leaders Strongly Criticize Minnesota Attorney General Alert for Pregnancy Centers

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The Women’s Life Care Center in Little Canada offers a full range of services for women with unplanned pregnancies, but is among the pro-life pregnancy centers now under attack by state Attorney General Keith Ellison through a consumer alert it issued on August 23. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

Twin Cities pro-life leaders denounced an Aug. 23 consumer alert issued by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison that criticized the state’s crisis pregnancy centers, with one leader calling it “terribly false and harmful.”

The impact of Ellison’s statement is to tarnish the good work of pregnancy resource centers and put people on notice that he has a target on his back, said Jason Adkins, executive director and general counsel of the Minnesota Catholic Conference. .

“Of course, PRCs need to be honest about what services they do and don’t offer,” Adkins said. “Not all of them have medical personnel, nor do they claim to have such resources.”

Many are focused on connecting women to housing and providing a safe, nonjudgmental environment where women can access clothing and other support, Adkins said. “But this alert is a solution in search of a problem.”

Ellison’s alert states that “many so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) can masquerade as reproductive health care clinics despite not providing comprehensive reproductive health care to consumers,” and some do not provide any reproductive health care services. medical. The alert can be found at ag.state.mn.us/abortionrights.

“CPCs are private organizations that attempt to prevent or deter pregnant individuals from accessing their constitutionally protected right under the Minnesota Constitution to safe and legal abortion,” Ellison’s alert states.

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Executives at Minnesota’s pregnancy resource centers, or what Ellison called crisis pregnancy centers, and leaders of the pro-life movement disagree with that premise. Vaunae Hansel, president of the Eagan-based nonprofit Elevate Life, is one of them. Hansel, whose organization provides training and resources to a network of 37 pregnancy resource centers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, said she was deeply saddened that the alert is not real. She encourages people with questions to visit a local pregnancy resource center and ask about their services.

Of the alleged issues listed in Ellison’s report, Hansel took issue with all eight, except for one sentence in one of them: that the number of crisis pregnancy centers may, in fact, outnumber abortion clinics in Minnesota. at about 11:1. That may be possible, she said.

Adkins said she thinks Ellison hopes to draw complaints against pregnancy resource centers, impose penalties and provide excuses for lawmakers to try to cut funding from the Positive Alternatives Grant, a state program that provides funding to some pregnancy resource centers. as they “promote healthy pregnancy outcomes and help pregnant and parenting women develop and maintain family stability and self-sufficiency,” as the state’s Catholic bishops described in June.

John Stiles, deputy chief of staff and media spokesman for the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, said several reasons prompted the attorney general’s alert. Ellison has issued other consumer alerts, including those addressing technology-related scams or warnings to be careful with door-to-door sales, he said. And the bureau has heard from some consumers who are concerned about “misrepresentations that some of these crisis pregnancy centers make,” Stiles said, such as not necessarily providing the services they claim.

Because crisis pregnancy centers are not regulated under Minnesota law, the attorney general wanted to use the power of his office to let people know to be careful and ask exactly what services are and are not being provided, Stiles said. .

But above all, the moment was fueled by national attention “suddenly focused on abortion rights by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision,” Stiles said.

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On June 24, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the US Constitution does not grant the right to abortion, overturning its Roe v. Wade of 1973 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1992. Abortion remains legal in Minnesota under the state constitution.

On July 28, Ellison said he would not appeal a separate ruling in Minnesota that struck down most of the state’s restrictions on abortion as unconstitutional, saying the state was unlikely to win an appeal and had spent enough time and money on the case.

Brian Gibson, executive director of St. Paul-based Pro-life Action Ministries, said Ellison’s consumer alert was “terribly false and damaging to these amazing places that help so many in need.”

“He was supposed to be advocating for laws that would help protect women going for abortions, and he failed miserably to do his duty there,” Gibson said. “And she is now attacking the very places that offer real, concrete help, generously helping women all the time, helping families.”

Crisis pregnancy centers have helped tens of thousands of people over the years, Gibson said, saving the lives of tens of thousands of babies “and he’s targeting them without knowing what they’re doing. He is taking the word of pro-abortion activists, of which he is one, without knowledge of the truth.”

Last year, Elevate Life affiliates provided educational and, in many cases, medical services, including ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, to more than 7,500 clients, Hansel said. The organization’s values ​​align with those of the Catholic Church, but it is not directly related to the Church, he said.

Hansel said that, among other things, he disagrees with Ellison’s consumer alert assertion that CPCs do not advise or provide accurate information about available abortion services.

“We provide accurate medical information about all of your options, including abortion,” he said. “We encourage all of our centers to use the Minnesota Department of Health’s (print) article ‘If You Are Pregnant.’ We do not refer or provide abortions, but we do provide medically accurate information from the Minnesota Department of Health about abortion and abortion procedures.”

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The consumer alert also states that more than 95% of CPCs do not provide prenatal or wellness care to “pregnant consumers, and most do not even provide prenatal referrals.” Hansel said that is not true.

For example, Options for Women East, an Elevate Life affiliate on St. Paul’s East Side, provides comprehensive prenatal care at no cost to clients, she said. And Options for Women St. Croix Valley in Oak Park Heights, another affiliate, also offers prenatal care.

“Each of our centers provides referrals for prenatal care,” Hansel said, and usually three referrals, so women have a choice.

Ellison’s actions on abortion are selective and appear to be ideological, Adkins said, noting that the Minnesota Department of Health’s 2021 abortion statistics report indicated that five babies were born alive during abortion procedures and left to die. . “That’s against the law,” Adkins said. he said. The statute can be found at https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/145.423

“Is Attorney General Ellison investigating the vendors where those deaths occurred?” Adkins asked. “Is he making sure that abortion clinics are safe places for women, despite evidence that abortion clinics, among other things, facilitate the sex trafficking of minors?”

With Ellison up for re-election this November, he may want to look “really good” to his base, which is “pro-abortion,” Gibson said. “It is not surprising in that sense that they are making these statements and … some in his base are encouraged to go vote.”

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‘Designed to deceive’

Attorney General Keith Ellison’s consumer alert referred to “a recent comprehensive study of the CPC industry” with a link to a report published by The Alliance: State Advocates for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. The report published data from centers in select states, including Minnesota, in a paper titled “Designed to Deceive: A Nine-State Crisis Pregnancy Center Industry Study.” https://tinyurl.com/23cetxub

The Alliance describes itself as a collaboration of state law and policy centers working across the country to advance gender equality at the intersection of reproductive rights, economic justice, LGBTQ+ equality, and gender-based violence.

The focus of her work is to ensure “equitable access to evidence-based reproductive health care and ensure transparency and accountability in government-funded programs for pregnant people.” To that end, the Alliance website says, it is partnering with the California Women’s Law Center and researchers across the country “to examine the sprawling network of crisis pregnancy centers, which are anti-abortion organizations that undermine the reproductive autonomy of vulnerable pregnant people while pretending to help them.”

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