Besieged Massachusetts pro-life pregnancy centers rally at state capitol

Boston pro-life pregnancy center Teresa Larkin, co-chair of the Pregnancy Care Alliance and executive director of Your Options Medical, a pregnancy center in the state speaks in support of pro-life pregnancy centers in Massachusetts. | Credit: Joe Bukuras/CNA

“Avoid anti-abortion centers. They try to limit your options if you’re pregnant,” reads one of the ads targeting Massachusetts residents on social media, billboards, and on mass transit.

That message is part of an aggressive, first-in-the-nation $1 million advertising campaign launched this month against local pro-life pregnancy centers in Massachusetts.

In response, on June 24, the anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, leaders of clinics in the state convened at the state capitol in Boston on Tuesday to combat the negative advertising campaign and educate legislators about their work and mission.

The event included prayer and calls to oppose legislation hostile to pro-life pregnancy centers. Clinic leaders and women who have been helped by pro-life pregnancy centers testified to the variety of ways these resources have helped them. 

They cited the access to abortion pill reversal, post-abortion counseling, and emotional and financial support they received.

“Throughout my first trimester [when I couldn’t find a doctor], these women were there for me,” said one woman who was successfully aided by the abortion pill reversal method at one clinic.

“They supported me with ultrasounds, they supported me with prenatal care, they were at my son’s baby shower. These women are constantly supporting us and my family. Their faith in me has never altered and I am totally grateful that I have not just their support but an extended family for life,” she said in front of a crowd of about 200 attendees.

The “Celebration of Life Day” event, coming almost exactly two years after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, was organized by the Pregnancy Care Alliance, a group of collaborating pregnancy centers sponsored by Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

At the end of the event, the attendees and speakers marched toward Democrat Gov. Maura Healey’s office to deliver a stack of over 4,000 signed petitions demanding the government drop its attacks on pregnancy centers.

“We call on Gov. Healey, Attorney General Andrea Campbell, each state senator and representative, as well as Robbie Goldstein, MD, PhD, commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, to withdraw all attempts to thwart the work of our PRCs [pregnancy resource centers]. We respectfully ask that these leaders issue a public acknowledgment that PRCs offer the choice women deserve,” the petition says.

At the event, attendees were urged to oppose an aggressive abortion bill working its way through the Legislature, HB1599, “An Act Enhancing Access to Abortion Care.” 

If passed, the bill would limit who can legally perform ultrasounds and force conscientious objectors to perform an abortion if “an abortion is required to preserve the life of a pregnant person and no medical staff other than the objector are available to perform or support the performance of the abortion.”

The bill would also prevent any legislation requiring abortion clinics to be affiliated with a hospital or their staff to have admitting privileges to a hospital, remove the required parental consent for girls under 16, and mandate that no waiting period be required between the signing of a consent form and an abortion.

The bill would require the public health department to run an advertising campaign against pro-life pregnancy centers, which the department is already doing. It also expands the definition of who may provide an abortion to “a licensed health care professional who, acting within their scope of practice, may lawfully perform an abortion or provide abortion-related care.”

Teresa Larkin, co-chair of the Pregnancy Care Alliance, told CNA at the event that the state’s attack ads are filled with “false accusations” and are “designed to scare people.”

“It’s really designed to prevent the women that really truly would be seeking our services to be intimidated or to be frightened to come because they’re thinking they’re not going to get the services that we advertise for,” said Larkin, who also heads a pregnancy center in the state.

Larkin called the use of taxpayer funds to attack pregnancy centers “unfortunate.”

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“I think of all the things we could be doing for people in this state versus a campaign that is designed to falsely accuse centers that only want to help women,” she said.

Larkin said that the Celebration of Life Day was an annual event before the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year was scheduled, without foreknowledge, weeks after the state’s ad campaign. 

“The timing is perfect in response to the million-dollar campaign that is designed to really attack centers for really not providing abortions,” she said. “We’re here to celebrate life, the good work that pregnancy care centers do to support women and families throughout the commonwealth.”

At the event, Pregnancy Care Alliance handed out fliers with highlighted data from seven of its members showing 4,084 clients served; 1,371 ultrasounds given; 1,725 pregnancy tests administered; and over $500,000 of food, diapers, clothing, and supplies donated.

The ad campaign

The state’s campaign ads, announced earlier this month, were launched on June 10 in both English and Spanish across Massachusetts in the form of social media content, billboards, radio, and transit. 

The $1 million in funds for the ad campaign was allocated by the state Legislature in 2023 as part of its budget and is run by the state’s public health department and the pro-abortion group Reproductive Equity Now Foundation. 

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On Reproductive Equity Now Foundation’s front page, the group says its mission is: “Demanding, protecting, and expanding reproductive equity and abortion access across New England.”

At the time of the campaign’s launch, Healey said that Massachusetts is “committed” to expanding access to abortion, which is already legal throughout all three trimesters.

Healey called the campaign “an important way to provide accurate information so residents can make informed decisions about reproductive care that are right for them.” 

The ads follow a series of acts of vandalism committed against pro-life pregnancy centers across the country and in Massachusetts since May 2022. The attacks began in anticipation of, and following, the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

Healey is ‘so hypocritical’

Staff members representing two legislative offices were present at the event, those of Republican state Sen. F. Jay Barrows and Republican state Rep. Steven Howitt. 

One Republican candidate for state Senate was also present and told CNA about her pro-life beliefs.

“I think that when you have Gov. Healey who says that we need to have women’s choice, and then she comes and she attacks organizations that are trying to embrace women’s choice and give them another option that it’s so hypocritical,” Kari MacRae of Bourne, Massachusetts, told CNA at the event.

“And this is the reason why I’m here today, is to support people and tell them that when I’m elected, I’ll be a voice for them. I won’t hide upstairs. I will stand up and speak up and say, ‘Let’s bring some common sense to it. That’s why I’m here,’” she added.

State Democrats currently hold majorities in both the House and Senate and control the governor’s office as well.

Myrna Maloney Flynn, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, told CNA that she was pleased with the standing-room-only crowd that showed up to the event, given that much less was anticipated.

Larkin was also buoyed by the size of the crowd.

“It seems more engagement than we’ve seen in the past. I think it’s exciting to fill and pack the statehouse,” she said.

“And also one of the exciting things for me is seeing all the different generations represented here. It’s great to see young people and families,” she said. “But this is very exciting that we see multiple generations represented.”

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