International pro-life group says pro-choice bias fueled investigative report

Ultrasound heartbeat Credit liseykina Shutterstock CNA liseykina/Shutterstock.

Heartbeat International, a pro-life group that operates or supports crisis pregnancy centers throughout the world, said a recent investigative report into their centers was fueled by pro-choice bias.

"The abortion lobby has continually waged a 'fake clinic' offensive on pro-life centers in recent years as it tries to preserve its public image and funding," Heartbeat International said Feb. 11.

The statement followed the publishing of a Feb. 10 investigative report into the group by openDemocracy, an online publication. One of the publication's backers is the Open Society Foundations, HBI noted.

According to their report, openDemocracy sent undercover reporters to clinics supported by HBI in 18 countries, who said they uncovered the spreading of misinformation at some of the clinics and in training materials.

Some workers at clinics reportedly said that abortion increases their risks for leukemia and mental illnesses, or could increase the likelihood that the mothers would become child abusers. Clinic online training materials reportedely said that women undergoing abortions could "turn their partners gay"

Some studies have shown a correlation between the rates of breast cancer and abortion, though not leukemia. Some studies also show that abortion may increase a woman's risk for mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Abortion has not been proven to "turn partners gay" nor increase a person's likelihood of becoming a child abuser.

HBI president Jor-El Godsey said Feb. 11 that he "stand(s) by our training and by our values" and that the openDemocracy report was a result of "misreporting" rather than "misinformation."

According to the statement, HBI's affiliates "must adhere to basic principles that affirm alternatives to abortion and ensure non-discrimination, but all other matters of policy and management remain under the direction of the centers' local leadership, allowing for autonomy."

Godsey added that openDemocracy did not give HBI adequate time to respond to their questions, as the group approached HBI on a Friday and asked for a response by Monday morning. Godsey said much of the staff was traveling over the weekend.

The misinformation openDemocracy reports to have uncovered largely occurred in international clinics in Europe or Latin America.

Ellen Foell, international specialist for Heartbeat International, said the group "stands firmly by 'Our Commitment of Care and Competence', while training continuously on it and promoting its use throughout the world...because we know that every woman deserves love and support during an unexpected pregnancy."

"No woman should feel alone, coerced, or so hopeless that she ends her child's life through abortion," she stated.

Foell, who has worked with pregnancy help centers in 60 countries, added that while laws and cultural norms surrounding abortion differ throughout the world, abortion always "ends the life of a developing human baby."

HBI said that they provided openDemocracy with scientific studies on the effects of abortion, but that these were not included in the final report.

HBI also refuted a claim from openDemocracy that they have "close ties" to Washington. HBI said the claims were false or misleading, such as the claim that Vice President Mike Pence has spoken at HBI events in D.C., when instead HBI was attending a roundtable event hosted by Students for Life of America, at which Pence spoke.

OpenDemocracy also claimed that HBI urged its allies to apply for funding from its "new friends in Washington." HBI said that this quote came from Godsey, who was encouraging pro-life groups to apply for Title X funds after Planned Parenthood declined the funding so that it could continue providing abortions.

Subsequent to the initial publication of this report, openDemocracy contacted CNA with a statement:

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"openDemocracy is a global news outlet that produces responsible, fact-based reporting on a wide range of issues, including the economy, environment, democracy, politics and human rights. It is not part of any pro-abortion lobby and we have not 'misreported' any of our findings," the group said.

"While openDemocracy sent the results of our investigation to Heartbeat prior to publication and, at their request, extended the deadline for comment, Heartbeat has subsequently published a number of inaccurate claims about openDemocracy, none of which were put to us for comment or verification. We believe that readers across the world, whatever their position on abortion, will be very concerned by our findings, which show that women across the world are being misled about their legal and reproductive options. If Heartbeat took their duty of care to women and girls seriously, they would be taking immediate steps to investigate."

For its part, HBI said that the attempts to discredit pro-life pregnancy resource centers are not new.

"The attack is very familiar," Godsey said. "It's just coming from different players."

Editor's note: This story has been updated Feb. 14 with a statement from openDemocracy, a clarification of CNA's description of the organization, and to clarify that openDemocracy reported that the assertion that abortion could have some correlation to homosexuality was made in online training materials.

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