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In defense of pregnancy centers

 Jason Guinasso
 Jason Guinasso
Opinion
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On October 11, 2022, Gov. Sisolak and his administration launched an “Abortion Information Page” on the State of Nevada website. In taking this action, the governor proudly proclaimed, "As Governor, I am committed to ensuring Nevadans have access to reproductive health care without fear or shame. We will not abandon the right to an abortion, and we will protect those in need of care. This website is one more step forward in this work.” 

The page accurately restates Nevada law, provides information about types of abortion, discusses medication abortions, surgical abortions, and induction abortions. However, shockingly, the state-sponsored website dedicates an entire section of the page to discrediting nonprofit Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Specifically, the state’s website states:

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (also known as CPCs) are organizations that seek to intercept women considering abortion. CPCs often advertise that they provide medical services, advice, and counseling in a clinical setting. However, CPCs do not provide comprehensive, accurate, or evidence-based clinical information. Instead, the primary goal of CPCs is to dissuade people seeking abortions from obtaining the procedure. 

Often, this is accomplished through deceptive practices, such as employing unlicensed clinicians purporting to provide medical advice, ultrasounds, or free pregnancy tests. CPCs are often located near clinics that do provide safe and legal abortions. Employees appear in scrubs or other medical attire despite not being licensed providers. The advice provided at CPCs does not meet the American Medical Association’s standard of care for providing evidence-based information and treatment options

While it is true that CPCs generally seek to provide facts about pregnancy, abortion, and information about alternatives to abortion with the goal of encouraging women to carry their pregnancies to term, many of the statements published on this “information website” are false and misleading when it comes to the validity of CPCs and the credibility of the information that they provide to women.  

Without any evidence to support his assertion, the governor went so far as to say on the state website that the CPCs engage in “deceptive practices.” These ignorant and politically motivated statements threaten to cause irreparable harm to the reputation of CPCs in the community and their ability to accomplish their mission and purpose, to wit: to provide a loving and safe environment where women can come to get factual information about their pregnancy and the free support services and resources available to them in a confidential setting as they explore their options.

I have been pro bono legal counsel for the Pregnancy Counseling Center, Inc., d.b.a., the Crisis Pregnancy Center (herenin after “The Center”) for over ten years. I am also “pro-life.” When I say I am pro-life, I don’t merely mean I am pro-birth. I don’t have any interest in usurping a female’s bodily autonomy and what they do with their own bodies simply for the sake of forcing a birth. But abortion involves more than one human body. There are two bodies with unique DNA who each have their own identity, dignity, and autonomy.  

“The unborn child is not an intruder who uses force and violence to attach himself to the mother, the way a parasite attaches to a host,” as Ryan Anderson and Alexandra Desanctis point out in their essay, “Why the Arguments about ‘Bodily Autonomy’ and Forced Birth Fail to Justify Abortion.” They write: “Rather, the unborn child is right where she is supposed to be, doing what she’s supposed to be doing. Conception and gestation are natural results of sex. People—parents especially—bear responsibilities for the natural consequences of their acts. A man and a woman who voluntarily engage in the act that can create new life, a life that comes into existence in the condition of radical dependence, owe duties in justice to care for that new life. This is the heart of parental obligation.”

Abortion is wrong not only because strangers shouldn’t kill each other but also and especially because parents have special obligations to their children, and it isn’t governmental overreach to require parents to fulfill those obligations. All human life is sacred, regardless of age, ethnicity, disability, or class. Accordingly, I am an advocate for the inherent dignity of human life from the womb to the grave. Most of my political perspective is built upon the value I place on human life.  

So, while I oppose abortion, I am also pro-health and pro-safety of the women giving birth to and raising the child. I am also pro-support of women and children after the child is born. This means caring for unwed mothers, speaking up for unborn children, providing homes for foster children, caring for the poor and the vulnerable, providing equitable access to high quality education for all children, receiving and caring for the refugee and the immigrant, and protecting elderly and widows. For me and many people like me, we want to render abortion unthinkable because support for alternatives to abortion is so abundant.  

Why? My perspective is driven by my own life experiences and my faith. I was born in 1972 the year before Roe was decided. I was one of seven children born to my mother; almost all of us had different fathers. I was born a bastard. Fatherless.  According to the pioneers of abortion rights, like Margaret Sanger who was a proponent of eugenics, my life represented a threat to the health of my mother and to society as whole. It would be better that I was not born at all than to be a burden on her and the community where she raised me and my siblings.

To be sure, life was difficult.  We needed public assistance to survive, the charity of our community to thrive, and we had to overcome the pain and consequences of other bad decisions my mother made; however, to her credit, my mother gave us a chance at life, worked tirelessly to care for and support us, and valued us.  

Many like me were not given the same chance at life. After 1973, 8.7 million members of my generation, Generation X, were eliminated by abortion. This is more than the entire population of the state of Virginia, and exceeds populations in all but 11 states. Then there are the 24,514,400 Millennial preborn lives lost to abortion so far. And between 1997 and 2017, which encompasses Generation Z, there have so far been an estimated 24,028,920 preborn babies lost to abortion.

The current abortion paradigm promoted by abortion advocates tells me and others like me who were born in difficult circumstances that we were a mistake. That it would have been better if we were never born. That we are not valued. That we are a burden to society. In short, arguing for abortion is akin to arguing against my existence.  

I realize my perspective is not shared by everyone. In fact, if the response to my  last column is any indication, I may hold a minority view on the sanctity of life.   But, as I explained, I think there are some opportunities to move past political talking points promoted by pro-abortion and anti-abortion advocates and build consensus on how to support pregnant women regardless of the choice that they ultimately make.

If those who advocate for abortion rights are serious about respecting the autonomy and related rights of women who are pregnant to make decisions concerning their pregnancy, then they should be committed to actually providing real choices. Choice must mean more than merely deciding to have an abortion. Choice must include considering the pros and cons of what it might take to carry a pregnancy to term and raise a child, or whether to carry the pregnancy to term to facilitate an adoption. The fact is that when a woman becomes pregnant, no matter what the circumstances of the pregnancy, abortion is not the only choice available.

While it is not clear where Gov. Sisolak got the information about pregnancy centers that he included on the state’s website, I can confidently tell you that the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Reno has been a great resource to women in our community since 1983. The Center is a warm, welcoming, nonjudgmental space where women can come to receive factual information about their pregnancy in a confidential environment as they explore their many options.

The Center provides caring assistance and support. Its volunteers are trained to listen, care, and provide truthful information to help women along with the choices they make about their pregnancy. The Center operates from the premise that an informed choice is a better choice. “WE ARE HERE TO HELP, NOT TO JUDGE,” is the motto the Center has adopted. The clients of the Center are served without regard to age, race, income, nationality, religious affiliation, disability, or other arbitrary circumstances. Each always receives honest and open answers. 

When a pregnancy test is administered by The Center, it is done so in accordance with all applicable laws. All client information is held in strict and absolute confidence. Further, clients of the Center receive accurate information about pregnancy, fetal development, and related concerns.  

The Center does not offer, recommend, or refer for abortions or abortifacients, but it is committed to offering accurate information about abortion procedures and risks. All of the Center’s advertising and communications are truthful and honest and accurately describe the services the Center offers.  All of the Center’s staff and volunteers receive proper professional training to uphold these standards.  

The Center never encroaches on the autonomy or dignity of a woman The Center serves with regard to the choice she makes. If she chooses to carry the pregnancy to term, The Center provides services in support of that choice.  Likewise, The Center provides services and support to women who choose to have abortions, including post-abortion services and support groups.  All the information, services, and programs provided by the Center are provided free of charge because of the charitable contributions provided by generous supporters in the community over the past 30 years. 

Before launching his “information page,” Gov. Sisolak should have done more due diligence regarding pregnancy centers. Rather than attack pregnancy centers, he should have invited their representatives to contribute to the information being provided to pregnant women considering their options. A fair and balanced effort to provide information relevant to “choices” pregnant might need to consider should have included more than just information on abortion.  The governor should have provided information on support for women choosing to carry their pregnancy to term and information on adoption with a list of reliable resources for these options, including pregnancy centers like the Center in Reno.  

Indeed, Nevada’s governor should represent and include the perspectives of all Nevadans, even those the governor may disagree with. If Gov. Sisolak is re-elected, which appears to be in question based on the polls from the last six weeks, he should resist his tribal impulses and engage people outside his small political circle, especially on issues as controversial as abortion. Perhaps a good first step would be for him to actually visit the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Reno so that he can get factual information and see first hand that there are loving and well-intentioned people serving pregnant women — and receive answers any questions and concerns he might have related to their services. The Center is nonpartisan and is not a political organization. It welcomes anyone with questions or concerns to tour of The Center.  

I certainly understand that the governor believes his support for abortion is a winning issue for him. I am told that is the conventional political wisdom given to him by his advisors. But any objective observer can see that all his pro-abortion rhetoric has done is to further contribute to the bitter divisiveness that has been a hallmark of our current political culture. And to use the power of his elected office to create a webpage that spreads disinformation and propaganda about those he has deemed to be political opponents and/or adverse to the interests of his patrons is simply reprehensible.  

Jason D. Guinasso is the managing partner of law firm Hutchison & Steffen’s office in Reno. He is a litigator and trial attorney who also maintains an appellate practice, which includes petitions for judicial review of administrative decisions, extraordinary writs, and appeals to the Nevada Supreme Court. He also is legal counsel for the Reno/Fernley Crisis Pregnancy Center and an associate pastor at Ministerio Palabra de Vida where he serves a diverse multicultural church.

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