Yesterday the New York City Council held a hearing to debate Intro 371, which would require fake clinics in the 5 boroughs of NYC to post a sign on their entrances (in English and Spanish) to state that they do not provide services or referrals for contraception or abortion, and do not have medical personnel on site. The City Council heard testimony from those that both support and oppose the bill, including NARAL Pro-Choice NY who released a report earlier this fall which helped to inform City Council members Quinn & Lappin who sponsor the bill.
This has clearly become a hotly contended issue, which would explain the turnout to a meeting scheduled for a small room 0n the 16th floor of a building in lower Manhattan. I arrived 20 minutes in advance only to watch the Sergeant-at-Arms come down to announce that both the hearing room and the overflow room were at capacity.
Which meant that although I had traveled from DC to NY at 6:30am, my fate was to spend the next 3 hours in a confined waiting area with a mixed group of anti-choice CPC volunteers and NYC pro-choice activists. We of course used the best of our collective mobile technology to pipe in to the Tweetesphere and keep up with the play-by-play from those who made it into the hearing.
The most frustrating moment of this, for me, was to listen to the group of CPC volunteers discuss the story of a woman who had recently come into one of their facilities for counseling. Yes, at the very moment that in a nearby room other Catholic and anti-choice leaders were defending their right to go on without the need for confidentiality within their centers, anti-choice volunteers were discussing the intense pain of a “post-abortive” woman who had come to them for help. How can this be??
It seems to me (from what I heard of the testimony from 3:45pm to 5:30pm), that CPCs such as Chris Slattery’s Expectant Mother Care (EMC) FrontLine Pregnancy Centers want certain benefits of being seen as respectable counseling centers with valuable services, without any of the responsibility since they aren’t actually medical centers with professionally trained staff. And don’t even get me started on the medical accuracy (or complete lack thereof) of the actual information the offer in their counseling.
When I was finally escorted into the overflow room with an audio feed of the hearing, the small group of pro-choice activists which had waiting around for nearly 4 hours was largely outnumbered by a larger group of about 40 anti-choice and religious leaders, lawyers and the like. By 4:30pm, I was in fact the only “pro-regulation” person in the room. Interesting circumstances… Particularly when they began cheering in response to anti-choice testimony.
From the testimony I did hear, there was compelling and articulate arguments made by staff and volunteers from New York Civil Liberties Union, Dr. Emily’s Women’s Health Center, Concerned Clergy for Choice, and Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Clergy spoke of counseling women who faced great personal difficult from mistakenly going to an EMC FrontLine. A NYCLU staffmember spoke of her experience going “undercover” into a CPC as a tool for investigation, and a NYCLU lawyer spoke of the state’s interest in protecting women from the likelihood of a CPC interfering with their ability to access care in a timely manner.
If you’d like to see a listing of the live Tweets from the hearing, check out #cpcnyc – even though I wasn’t able to join in the action!