Twin Cities pro-life leaders decried an Aug. 23 consumer alert issued by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison criticizing the state’s crisis pregnancy centers, with one leader calling it “horribly disingenuous and harmful.”
The impact of Ellison’s statement is to besmirch the good work of pregnancy resource centers and put people on notice that he has a target on their back, said Jason Adkins, executive director and general counsel for the Minnesota Catholic Conference.
“Of course PRCs should be truthful about what services they offer and what they do not,” Adkins said. “Not all of them have medical staff, nor do they hold themselves out as having such resources.”
Many focus on connecting women with housing and providing a safe, non-judgmental environment where women can access clothing and other support, Adkins said. “But this alert is a solution in search of a problem.”
Ellison’s alert states that “many so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) may pose as reproductive healthcare clinics despite not providing comprehensive reproductive healthcare to consumers,” and some don’t provide any health care services at all. The alert can be found at ag.state.mn.us/abortionrights.
“CPCs are private organizations that attempt to prevent or dissuade pregnant people from accessing their constitutionally protected right under the Minnesota Constitution to a safe and legal abortion,” Ellison’s alert states.
Executives at Minnesota pregnancy resource centers — or what Ellison called crisis pregnancy centers — and leaders in the pro-life movement disagree with that premise. Vaunae Hansel, president of the Eagan-based nonprofit Elevate Life, is one. Hansel, whose organization provides training and resources to a network of 37 pregnancy resource centers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, said she was deeply saddened because the alert is not factual. She encourages people with questions to visit a local pregnancy resource center and ask about its services.
Of the alleged problems listed in Ellison’s report, Hansel took issue with all eight except for a phrase in one of them — that the number of crisis pregnancy centers may, in fact, outnumber abortion clinics in Minnesota by about 11:1. That may be possible, she said.
Adkins said he thinks Ellison hopes to generate complaints against pregnancy resource centers, impose penalties and provide excuses for lawmakers to try to cut Positive Alternatives Grant funding, a state program that provides funding to some pregnancy resource centers as they “promote healthy pregnancy outcomes, and assist pregnant and parenting women in developing and maintaining family stability and self-sufficiency,” as the state’s Catholic bishops described it in June.
John Stiles, deputy chief of staff and media spokesperson for the Minnesota Office of the Attorney General, said several reasons prompted the attorney general’s alert. Ellison has issued other consumer alerts, including those addressing technology-related scams or warnings to be wary of door-to-door sales, he said. And the office has heard from some consumers who have concerns about “misrepresentations that some of these crisis pregnancy centers make,” Stiles said, such as not necessarily providing the services that they claim to offer.
Because crisis pregnancy centers are unregulated under Minnesota law, the attorney general wanted to use the power of his office to let people know that they should be careful and ask exactly what services are provided and which are not, Stiles said.
But above all, the timing was prompted by national attention “suddenly focused on the right to abortion by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision,” Stiles said.