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Largest crisis pregnancy care centers not clamoring for proposed sonogram grants

UPDATED: March 28, 11:54 a.m.

As The American Independent reported earlier this week, Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns’ proposed [Informed Choice Act](Informed Choice Act: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.165.IH:) would allocate federal grant money to nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations that operate ”as a community-based pregnancy help medical clinic” to buy ultrasound equipment to provide free examinations to pregnant women. But some of the presumed benefactors of these grants, crisis pregnancy centers, have admittedly not gone out of their way to push this legislation.

Representatives from the two largest networks of crisis pregnancy centers in the country, Care Net and Heartbeat International, said that about half of their clinics offer what they refer to as “limited ultrasound services.”

Under the bill, to qualify for the grants, centers would have to already provide medical services under the guidance and supervision of a licensed physician.

Care Net, based in Lansdowne, Va., supports* a network of 1,135 crisis pregnancy centers across the country, said spokesperson Kristin Hansen. Of those, she estimated that 550 to 600 offer limited ultrasound services. Those ultrasounds, Hansen said, are administered either by licensed medical professionals or trained sonographers**.

“The ultrasounds help determine viable pregnancies and how far along you are in your pregnancy, which is very important,” Hansen said.

Hansen noted that the bill has not gone anywhere though it has been introduced in the last several legislative sessions. Yet she said this new Congress has proved to be “different,” and that the role of ultrasounds in educating women about abortion has gained more prominence this time around.

“The legislation comes at a time when ultrasound and pregnancy centers serve significantly by providing these services for free,” Hansen said.

Care Net’s funding* comes from private, non-governmental sources, Hansen added.

Heartbeat International, based in Columbus, Ohio, operates approximately 800 CPCs nationwide (1,100 total, covering 50 different nations), said public relations director Virginia Cline. Of those, Cline estimated that about 400 centers offer medical services, ranging from testing for sexually transmitted diseases to ultrasound services.

Were Stearns’ bill to pass, Heartbeat International said it would not apply for a grant to purchase ultrasound machines, and generally steers clear of federal money and the red tape involved, save for now-expired grants for abstinence and Marriage Works funds.

In a statement emailed to TAI, the CPC network said, “Heartbeat International will not pursue such grants as we are not a direct provider of services. In general, Heartbeat always recommends qualifying service providers to carefully consider government grants and contracts that would help them effectively serve those facing unplanned pregnancy to make positive life choices.”

Birthright International, another large umbrella of CPCs which began in Toronto in 1968 and now has 400 chapters worldwide, offers no medical or ultrasound services in their network, according to spokesperson Terry Weaver of Birthright’s U.S. headquarters. Among the services Birthright provides include, according to its website: free pregnancy testing, information on prenatal development, career development, adoption, pregnancy and childbirth.

In the past, the policy group Democrats for Life of America has supported Stearns’ legislation, for its education merits.

“When women see ultrasounds, they have a tendency to choose life,” said DLA President Kristin Day.

Stearns’ bill does not come without strings. Among the stipulations, grant recipients must:

  • be legally qualified to provide such medical services to pregnant women and be in compliance with all federal, state, and local requirements for the provision of such services
  • obtain and maintain medical malpractice insurance in an amount not less than $1 million
  • not receive more than 30 percent of its gross annual revenue from a single source or donor

With the money, the centers would have to use the ultrasound equipment to:

  • show the visual image of the fetus from the ultrasound examination and give a general anatomical and physiological description of the characteristics of the fetus
  • give each pregnant woman the approximate age of the embryo or fetus
  • give each pregnant woman information on abortion and alternatives to abortion such as childbirth and adoption and information concerning public and private agencies that will assist in those alternatives

*Corrections: *

**We previously reported that Care Net “operates” 1,135 crisis pregnancy centers nationally, but in fact each center operates independently as a separate 501 (c) 3 organization. Additionally, we stated that “the majority” of Care Net’s funding comes from private, non-governmental sources. According to Care Net, all of their funding comes from private, non-governmental sources; however, some affiliates participate in federal and state grants on a limited basis. *

*** We previously stated that Care Net’s ultrasounds are administered either by licensed medical professionals or trained “stenographers.” This was a typographical error and should read “sonographers.” We regret the errors. *

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