Panelists discuss crisis pregnancy centers, Planned Parenthood

Kavish Harjai, Staff Writer

For the NYU Law Students for Reproductive Justice’s first event of this school year, a panel of experts discussed crisis pregnancy centers and screened a new HBO documentary, “12th and Delaware.”

The panel, which took place Nov. 5 at Vanderbilt Hall, featured law and social work specialists who are advocates for women’s reproductive rights. The three panelists were Sasha Ahuja, the current director of governmental relations at Planned Parenthood of New York City; Emily Kadar, the government affairs and advocacy manager at NARAL Pro-Choice New York; and Stephanie Toti, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

LSRJ is a national organization with chapters across various law school campuses in the United States. Its goal is to help train and mobilize current law students to exercise their legal expertise and perform outreach. NYU’s chapter had been on hiatus for several months before being relaunched.

“I was able to find a fantastic group of like-minded students committed to reproductive justice and restarting our chapter,” said Laura Ferro, a second-year law student and the chair of LSRJ.

Ferro provided an explanation for what crisis pregnancy centers are and what they aim to do.

“Crisis pregnancy centers provide counseling and sometimes services to pregnant women that do not include comprehensive birth control and abortion services,” Ferro said. “For the most part, CPCs are not medical facilities and workers/volunteers at CPCs are usually not medical professionals. CPCs have been accused of deceptive practices and of pressuring women in order to prevent them from having an abortion.”

Ahuja spoke about the differences between the services PPNYC offers and the services CPCs provide. She said PPNYC has licensed medical professionals to help women, whereas CPCs have reportedly told patients that abortions cause breast cancer and lead to depression or feelings of suicide.

“When a woman comes into Planned Parenthood, she will sit down with a social worker and go through a comprehensive options counseling,” Ahuja said.

Ahuja also spoke about the strategy of co-locating utilized by CPCs, which she said could deceive women. For example, there is a CPC in the same building as the Planned Parenthood clinic in Brooklyn, and a CPC across the street from the Planned Parenthood clinic in the Bronx.

Kadar said the number of abortion clinics in New York is not representative of the number nationwide. In total, there are 250 abortion clinics in New York state, but nationwide, CPCs outnumber abortion clinics two to one.

Steinhardt sophomore Gabrielle Gunin said crisis pregnancy centers were better in theory than in practice.

“Crisis pregnancy centers definitely have a place, because not everyone who is carrying an unwanted child is looking to get an abortion,” Gunin said. “Having read about the firsthand accounts of things that go on specifically in New York CPCs, I was blown away. Women are shamed for even considering abortions and pressured into pro-life options. Even though I’m sure we’re doing better than states who are dominated by Christian pro-life groups, there is obviously still room for improvement.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Nov. 6 print edition. Kavish Harjai is a staff writer. Email him at [email protected]

*An earlier version of this story misidentified NARAL Pro-Choice New York as National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Pro-Choice NY. NARAL Pro-Choice New York stopped using this acronym in 2003. WSN regrets the error.