A Vancouver pro-choice community leader wants the B.C. government to regulate crisis pregnancy centres.
In a phone interview with the Straight, Joyce Arthur of the Pro-Choice Action Network said these organizations sometimes present themselves as secular agencies to lure pregnant women, but often have a secret religious agenda to discourage anyone from seeking an abortion or using birth control. Others, she said, will disclose their religious affiliation in fine print, but not in an “up-front” manner.
She also alleged that some crisis pregnancy centres falsely claim that there are links between abortion and breast cancer.
“They’re handing out medical misinformation to women, scaring them and so forth,” Arthur said. “Can they be regulated in some way?”
The Ministry of Health did not make a spokesperson available to respond by the Straight’s deadline.
Arthur made the comments after B.C. Supreme Court justice Loryl Russell dismissed a defamation suit against her and the Pro-Choice Action Network late last month. It was filed by two local organizations that operate crisis pregnancy centres: the Christian Advocacy Society of Greater Vancouver and the Crisis Pregnancy Centre of Vancouver Society.
According to Russell’s ruling, Arthur claimed in a 2009 report on the Pro-Choice Action Network website that crisis pregnancy centres are “anti-choice Christian ministries, often pretending to be non-biased medical clinics or counselling services. Their main goal is to stop women from having abortions and to convert women to Christianity.”
Arthur stated in the report that the activities and strategies were “common” to many North American crisis pregnancy centres.
“I think they were just targeting me as a leader in the pro-choice movement,” Arthur said. “They were trying to silence criticism of any CPC [crisis pregnancy centre] anywhere.”
B.C. NDP health critic Judy Darcy told the Straight by phone that she is "very disturbed" about the lack of counselling for pregnant women that offers real choices—"both to consider options, including abortion as a choice, but also counselling post-abortion in a way that is unbiased and that use medically sound information".
"That's what women really need," Darcy said. "It's unfortunate that in the absence of that, people often have no choice or don't know that they're turning to counselling services that are, in fact, not unbiased and not necessarily [providing] medically sound information."
When asked if government should step in as a regulator, Darcy replied: "I think government's main role is to ensure that those unbiased medically sound services are available to women, so that women are able to go to those kinds of services. I'll be honest, I haven't dug into the issue of these crisis pregnancy centres enough to know whether they need to be regulated. I think certainly it needs to be clear what they are and what they aren't, so that women know what services they're turning to."