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Florida legislator advises crisis pregnancy center leaders on lobbying elected officials

State Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, made an appearance at Care Net’s conference in Orlando late last week. The legislator took part in a panel for crisis pregnancy center advocates on how to “educate” their lawmakers.

****Care Net manages a nationwide network of crisis pregnancy centers (commonly known as CPCs), including some in Florida, and provides brochures to Florida’s chain of state-funded CPCs. The group has described its “ultimate aim” as “sharing the love and truth of Jesus Christ.”

Many CPCs are created with religious aims. One of the main goals of the centers is to persuade women to not have abortions.

Care Net Vice President of External Relations Joe Young says the group wants to help women make an “informed choice.” He says CPCs offer an “independent” Christian voice that a woman would not otherwise hear when she is seeking an abortion.

The Care Net conference featured a panel with Weatherford and Dan McConchie, vice president of government affairs for Americans United for Life. Americans United is the group behind a new investigation into Planned Parenthood’s finances and policies. Planned Parenthood was a large and frequently mentioned target throughout the Care Net event.

The panel that Weatherford spoke at was titled, “Protecting your centers from targeted legislation.” Here’s how the conference agenda described the panel:

NARAL and Planned Parenthood are targeting pregnancy centers with onerous state and local regulations in an attempt to limit your center’s life saving work. You can fight back. Attend this session to learn how to educate your elected officials about your center’s work and them into advocates for you. Plus hear an update on pro-life legislation and litigation affecting the work of pregnancy centers.

While we were not allowed into the un-recorded panel discussion, Weatherford told The Florida Independent he mostly offered advice on how conference attendees could appeal to elected officials.

In Florida, CPCs have had many wins in the past couple years. As spending for family planning is cut in the state budget, CPCs have not faced any budget reductions in six years. Compared to other state-funded groups that provide some similar services, CPCs serve dramatically fewer patients each year and provide fewer services.

The conference featured guest speakers such as Abby Johnson as well as the opportunity for groups to exhibit their services for individuals who attended the conference — which was mostly people who work in CPCs. Among the groups listed to exhibit at the conference were controversial groups such as Heroic Media and Personhood Florida.

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