Pregnancy centers are criticizing The Associated Press for instructing journalists to use terminology that brands them as centers against abortion.
“Rather than sticking to a neutral term, it appears the AP has opted for terminology that favors the pro-choice movement’s strategy to discredit pregnancy centers,” Roland Warren, the president and CEO of Care Net, which supports a network of 1,200 pregnancy centers, told Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. “This does not come across as unbiased journalism.”
The AP style guide, used by journalists and news outlets nationwide, recommends that journalists avoid “potentially misleading terms” such as “pregnancy resource centers” or “pregnancy counseling centers.” Instead, reporters should use the terms “anti-abortion counseling centers,” “anti-abortion centers” and “‘crisis pregnancy centers’ that oppose abortions.” These terms, the AP says, describe centers that are “set up to divert or discourage women from having abortions by using counseling, material support and/or housing in an effort to persuade women to bring their pregnancies to term.”
The AP guidelines went into effect in November, The Daily Signal online news outlet reported Feb. 3.
Pregnancy center networks and center directors criticized the AP’s recommended language, with Warren calling the AP’s choice of terminology “puzzling.”
The change comes after dozens of pro-life pregnancy centers nationwide have suffered from attacks surrounding and following the Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which freed states to decide abortion policy.
Warren highlighted that the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI consider pregnancy centers, like abortion clinics, to be “reproductive health care facilities” per the protections afforded them under the federal FACE Act.
Enacted by Congress in 1994, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or the FACE Act, “prohibits violent, threatening, damaging and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain or provide reproductive health services,” including at “pro-life pregnancy counseling services” as defined by the Justice Department.
“One would think that the AP would call us what we actually are, per the federal government’s guidelines,” Warren said, pointing to a “Resource Booklet for Reproductive Health Care Providers and Their Staffs” found on the FBI’s website.
Andrea Trudden, the vice president of communications and marketing at Heartbeat International, a network supporting thousands of pregnancy centers, emphasized other changes made in the past by the AP.
“The pro-abortion bias and manipulation of language by the media is nothing new for the pro-life world,” Trudden said, pointing to the AP also advising journalists to use the term “anti-abortion rights” instead of “pro-life.”
“We help pregnant women and families as they walk through an important time in their lives,” she said. “This should not be something put into scare quotes or qualified for anything more than it is — organizations providing free care and support to women in need. Period.”
In the United States, roughly 3,000 pregnancy centers provide pregnant and parenting women with life-affirming care at little to no cost. According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, these centers gave away services and material assistance worth more than $266 million in 2019 alone.
Janet Durig, the executive director of Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center in Washington, stressed that those who appear to oppose pregnancy centers or label them solely as centers against abortion do not understand the work that they do. She invited them to visit, take a tour and ask questions.
“We serve these women in need who want to keep their babies, and we’re there to help them do that,” Durig told Our Sunday Visitor.
Her center provides all services for free. Those services, listed on its website, include maternity and baby clothing and supplies, ongoing pregnancy support (counseling and mentoring), childbirth and parenting classes, as well as medical, legal, adoption and housing referrals. It also offers post-abortion individual peer support or small groups.
“There’s never judgment at the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center for someone who’s had an abortion, multiple abortions, or thinks they want to have an abortion,” Durig said. “We only relay to them how we would help them if they choose life.”
The Associated Press did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.