Pregnancy resource centers the target of local education effort

BROOKLINE, Mass. — They are sprinkled across the state, going by identifiers that critics say are hiding their true mission: to prevent abortion.

But a new state education campaign, the first of its kind in the nation, is putting these “women’s health centers” and “pregnancy resource centers” on notice.

“[The campaign] warns people to avoid anti-abortion centers,” said Robbie Goldstein, MD, PhD, State Commissioner of Public Health. “It calls out these centers for misrepresenting what they do and what they don’t do.”

What they try to do is talk pregnant women out of abortion.

“Inside, they may look like medical clinics with staff wearing scrubs or lab coats, but most centers aren’t even licensed clinics,” said Goldstein. “Nor are the staff that are usually there licensed medical providers.”

Still. some centers do provide pregnancy testing and the performing and reading of ultrasounds, he said. And that, critics say, opens up an avenue for deception.

“They use emotional manipulation,” said Goldstein  “Showing ultrasounds of fetuses to evoke a connection.”

“Some of these ultrasounds were imprinted with the words ‘Hi Mom’ or ‘I love you, Mommy,’” said Bianca Passarelli, NP, of Women’s Health Services. Some centers purport to determine the gender of the developing fetus — something impossible during the early stages of development.

“They want patients to remain pregnant until it’s too late to make any other decision,” said Passarelli.

Passarelli said these centers also don’t inform patients they are eligible for MassHealth, just by virtue of pregnancy — because they know MassHealth pays for abortions.

In a statement, The Pregnancy Care Alliance of Massachusetts shot back at critics Monday:

“The women served by pregnancy resource centers overwhelmingly report a positive experience,” the group said. “Yet the Healey Administration and other politicians in the state are furthering their extreme abortion agenda by using a taxpayer-funded campaign to discredit our centers.”

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