- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2002

Two dozen pro-life pregnancy centers in New York are fighting back against subpoenas issued in late January in a state investigation of possible false advertising and illegal medical practice claims that critics are calling politically motivated.
The 24 centers complied with a Feb. 15 deadline imposed by Attorney General Eliott Spitzer by filing lawsuits seeking to quash the subpoenas and to end the probe, citing the free-speech rights of facilities that offer pregnant women alternatives to abortion.
"This will be a coordinated legal defense," said Vincent McCarthy, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing five centers in New York City.
ACLJ, a public interest law firm in Virginia Beach that specializes in pro-life issues, is representing five centers in New York City that operate under the name Expectant Mother Care, or EMC.
Mr. McCarthy accused the state of New York and its attorney general of being engaged in a "campaign to disrupt, discredit and harass the pro-life counseling centers."
"The investigation is an attempt to eliminate the pro-life message and clearly violates the Constitution. The subpoena is out of bounds and without merit, and we are hopeful the court will agree with our position," he said.
Daren Dopp, spokesman for Mr. Spitzer's office, denies accusations that the attorney general is out to silence or shut down pro-life pregnancy counseling centers.
"There's been this misconception we want to close them," he said .
Mr. Dopp said the investigation is a response to complaints that the centers were practicing medicine without a license and were deceiving pregnant women into thinking they offered a variety of reproductive medical services, including abortion, when they do not even refer women to abortion clinics.
Mr. McCarthy dismisses such claims. He points out that pro-life pregnancy counseling centers are listed in the "Abortion Alternatives" section of the Yellow Pages and that rather than practicing medicine, they merely provide counseling, referral and other assistance such as food, shelter, cribs and diapers free to needy women.
In its petition on behalf of EMC, the ACLJ suggests Mr. Spitzer's probe is part of an effort to do the bidding of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) and other pro-choice groups. The lawsuit points out how Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, declared at a NARAL conference in January 1999 that he shares their commitments.
"I am establishing a special reproductive rights unit with the Bureau of Civil Rights," he told NARAL.
"We think this is politically motivated," said Anne Downey, attorney for the Buffalo-based Crisis Pregnancy Center of Western New York, which was also subpoenaed by Mr. Spitzer. "This investigation is right in accord with the step-by-step instructions in the manual published by NARAL."
The EMC lawsuit notes that NARAL, at its Web site, recommends using a "sympathetic state attorney general" to "investigate" and "bring charges" against the facilities that NARAL calls "crisis pregnancy centers."
Mr. Dopp calls assertions that the investigation is political in nature "regrettable" and untrue. He said Mr. Spitzer "may have" received a $2,000 campaign contribution from NARAL. "But that was out of a total of $12 million," he said.
ACLJ's suit says the subpoena fails to identify "any specific complaint" for investigating the pro-life counseling center. Because there is nothing to support the subpoena's conclusion that the attorney general has a "good faith belief" that EMC "violated one or more" laws, the subpoena should be "quashed summarily."
The complaint says that Mr. Spitzer is on a "fishing expedition," and that the subpoena is "overly broad."
In a letter dated Feb. 12, the attorney general's office states that EMC, which it also identifies as Pregnancy Resources Center Inc., improperly advertises itself as a clinic and erroneously claims it provides free pregnancy testing.
The attorney general's office says on the "practicing medicine" complaint that it has "first-hand evidence" that a visitor to an EMC office was given what amounted to a medical diagnosis when she was told she was in a "particular stage of pregnancy" by an EMC staffer.

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