- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 11, 2009

It used to be that if a woman had an unplanned pregnancy, she most likely would search out the local abortion clinic to address her needs.

Times have changed.

Today, it’s more likely she will find a pregnancy resource center (PRC) in her neighborhood.

PRCs, which are sometimes called “crisis pregnancy centers,” do not offer abortions. Nor do they refer women for an abortion.

It is probably a surprise to most Americans that these no-abortion pregnancy services now outnumber abortion clinics. There are at least 2,300 PRCs, according to a report issued at a recent media briefing in the District. In contrast, there were 1,787 abortion providers as of 2005 (the most recent tally by the Guttmacher Institute).

Since the Obama administration wants to see a reduction in abortions, PRC supporters want to raise the profile of their services.

“PRCs are becoming a real cornerstone” in the nation’s health care system, Dr. Joxel Garcia, former assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services, told the media briefing, which was sponsored by the Family Research Council.

PRCs reach 1.9 million people a year, and are located in all 50 states, including urban areas, PRC supporters said. PRCs also are distinctive in that they are funded almost completely by private dollars and offer their services at little or no cost.

The growth of PRCs cannot be welcome news for abortion supporters.

The peak year for abortions — 1.6 million procedures — was almost 20 years ago, in 1990. The trend has been downward ever since, falling to 1.2 million abortions in 2005.

The number of abortion providers also has shrunk.

After the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion, the number of abortion providers rose, as expected. But their numbers peaked in the early 1980s, with about 2,900, according to Guttmacher data. It has now fallen to 1,787 providers.

The growth of PRCs incenses many pro-choice groups because they see PRCs as “bait-and-switch” operations.

These “fake” abortion clinics are “run by extreme anti-abortion groups that imitate actual abortion clinics,” says Legal Momentum, a veteran women’s rights group.

PRCs “do not provide abortion or contraceptive services” and many are not medical clinics at all, Legal Momentum says. Moreover, PRCs “typically use deceptive advertising tactics” to lure women in and then use “misinformation, shame and scare tactics” to dissuade women from choosing abortion.

The reality, however, is that if a woman looks online or in a phone book for pregnancy services, she will see she has choices: There likely will be a list of “Abortion Alternatives” right next to “Abortion Providers.”

And PRC leaders, in response to their critics, told the Family Research Council event that they have excellent medical professionals on their staffs, and carefully vet and train their thousands of volunteers to ensure competence and compassionate care.

“Our manifesto” is that all our staff and volunteers will act with integrity, truth in advertising and client care, said Melinda Delahoyde, president of Care Net, one of the major PRC networks.

Roe v. Wade will reach its 40th anniversary in a few years, and its “clientele” is changing. The first generation of women who availed themselves of legal abortion are nearing the end of their reproductive years (the youngest baby boomer women are 45).

The choice is moving to Gen X and Millennial women. The big question is: Which will they prefer — abortion alternatives or abortion providers?

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at [email protected]

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