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Mass. officials launch information campaign warning against anti-abortion centers

Dr. Robbie Goldstein, the Massachusetts commissioner of public health, announces a new state public awareness campaign against anti-abortion centers during an event in Brookline on June 10, 2024.
Katie Lannan
/
GBH News
Dr. Robbie Goldstein, the Massachusetts commissioner of public health, announces a new state public awareness campaign against anti-abortion centers during an event in Brookline on June 10, 2024.

A new state public awareness campaign advises Massachusetts residents to “avoid anti-abortion centers” and to seek out other sources for pregnancy information.

State officials launched the campaign outside Women’s Health Services, an abortion clinic in Brookline. They said anti-abortion counseling centers, also called “crisis pregnancy centers,” can use misleading tactics to dissuade people from getting abortions.

The campaign, from the state’s Department of Public Health, features ads in English and Spanish. It directs people to a state website that offers guidance on recognizing anti-abortion centers and help finding abortion providers and comprehensive reproductive health care.

DPH Commissioner Robbie Goldstein said the effort “counter-punches to the vast amount of misinformation and disinformation that these centers peddle every day, deceiving people who may be frightened or confused as they find themselves at a crossroads.”

“As a physician, I’m alarmed to think that right now, someone in this state is walking through the door of an anti-abortion center, unsuspecting and believing that they will get care, support and information needed to make an important health decision,” Goldstein said. “As the commissioner of public health, I’m resolute about calling out this deception for what it is: a public health threat. When people are denied factual information and the freedom to make fully informed decisions about their reproductive health, it can lead to worse mental and physical outcomes.”

The DPH worked with the organization Reproductive Equity Now on the campaign. Reproductive Equity Now President Rebecca Hart Holder called anti-abortion centers “the foot soldiers of the anti-abortion movement.”

“These facilities are how anti-abortion extremists operate in protected states like ours,” she said.

A spending bill that Gov. Maura Healey signed in March 2023 dedicated $1 million dollars to a public awareness campaign focused on “crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers and the centers’ lack of medical services.”

Goldstein said the period of more than a year between approval of the money and the launch of the campaign gave the department a chance to “make sure we got it right” and create something “that clearly got the message across to people that they should avoid anti-abortion centers.”

The funding, Goldstein said, will allow the ads to run “for many months this year.” He said they’ll be distributed widely across the state, “on social media, on buses, on garbage cans.”

The Pregnancy Care Alliance, a coalition of nonprofit anti-abortion organizations that launched last year, called the campaign “politically motivated” and said it would negatively affect “the many women who want to parent and rely on the free assistance we provide.”

“The women served by pregnancy resource centers overwhelmingly report a positive experience, yet the Healey administration and other politicians in the state are furthering their extreme abortion agenda by using a taxpayer-funded campaign to discredit our centers,” the alliance, an affiliate of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said in a statement.

The ad campaign arrives in an election year when Democrats are calling attention to Republican-backed limits on abortion.

“The right for a woman to access safe and effective abortion care is vital to public health and women’s empowerment, and yet one in three women live in states without access to elective abortion services,” U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss said in Brookline Wednesday. “As women face obstacles in their right to choose, we are seeing anti-abortion practices seize an opportunity in a post-Roe America to expand their duplicitous centers and impede safe and effective abortion care.”

There are around 30 anti-abortion centers in Massachusetts, officials said.

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Katie Lannan