Women with unintended pregnancies will soon have another option, as The Life Center of Long Island, an anti-abortion group based in Deer Park, is planning to open what it terms the "first pro-life medical facility on Long Island," across the street from the newly opened Massapequa Planned Parenthood.
Executive Director Lorraine Gariboldi was up front about calling Planned Parenthood "the competition," admitting that the location of the new facility was strategic, and explaining that sonograms will be offered in an attempt to persuade pregnant women to give birth.
"We want to reach abortion-minded women, we want to give them the information they need to make an informed decision, and we know that most of the time, when they see the sonogram of their baby, they change their minds and hearts," Gariboldi said.
There are over 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers in the country, and many of them are in the process or have already converted to medical centers. AAA Pregnancy Options, as the new facility will be called, will offer sonograms, in addition to continuing the services of a crisis pregnancy center.
But Karen Pearl, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County opposes the new Massapequa facility and others like it, on the basis that they provide nominal health care, biased counseling, and manipulative techniques to coerce women into not having abortions.
"Instead of helping women with unintended pregnancies make informed and responsible choices, the organization that is opening this center in Massapequa has declared that its sole purpose is to convince people with unintended pregnancies not to choose abortion," Pearl said.
"While posing as a medical facility, they are, in fact not providing any health care.
Gariboldi denied that the center would coerce or mislead clients. "If we lured women here by using deceitful tactics, the attorney general would close our doors. We don't give women false information. Our literature on the risks of having an abortion contains documented facts. Having a sonogram provides women with more accurate information," she said.
"We have to do everything above the letter of the law because we are always under the scrutiny of the attorney general who is very pro-choice and would love to close us down."
According to Gariboldi, the facility will have nurses on staff "probably every day." Dr. Robert Scanlon Jr. of Huntington, and Dr. Carl Pillitteri of Deer Park, both members of the American College of Obstetrician Gynecologists, head a committee of key medical decision-makers. However, at the time of the interview, Gariboldi could not say if or when the doctors would be on the premises. Both doctors declined to comment, instructing Gariboldi to speak on their behalf.
A sign hanging over the door of AAA Pregnancy Options will read "Pregnant? Need Help?" and will be visible to those women coming to Planned Parenthood.
"They are planning to use sonograms--meant as medical diagnostic tests--for the sole purpose of trying to manipulate the patient's decisions about childbearing," Pearl said, adding that the sonogram of a six-week fetus shows very little. "At that stage, there's nothing to see, just mostly gray and white."
"At six weeks, you can clearly see a beating heart," Gariboldi countered, "and at eight to nine weeks, when most abortions occur, they child already has a beating heart, fingers and toes, arms and legs."
This latest conflict over abortion comes at a time when teen pregnancy and abortion rates are the lowest in 15 years. Pearl credits Planned Parenthood for the statistic, stating, "If centers such as AAA Pregnancy Options were truly interested in reducing the rate of abortion, the would actually support Planned Parenthood because through our preventative health care, family planning and education, we've actually done more to reduce the numbers of abortions across this country than all of the anti-choice activities have done combined."
Gariboldi attributed the decline in teen pregnancy and abortions to the HIV AIDS crisis. "Planned Parenthood would like to say they are the reason, I'd like to say I am the reason, but HIV AIDS better be the reason."
Gariboldi, whose counseling services promote abstinence as the only option to avoiding pregnancy, added, "It's time kids woke up to the fact that if they are going to be sexually active outside of marriage, they run the risk of coming in contact with HIV AIDS, not to mention other sexually transmitted diseases that here on Long Island, especially on the South Shore, are at epidemic proportions."
Planned Parenthood offers testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, as well as screening for breast and cervical cancer, and a full range of preventative services, including family planning, education, and comprehensive health care. "Our philosophy is to empower women to make the best decisions for themselves free of any pressure or coercion," Pearl stated. "This is why we offer prenatal services as well as abortion services and full options counseling to provide women with choices, including adoption."
Renovations on the white cape house at 35 E. Willow Street will be completed in the next three to six months. The Life Center is non-religious, non-political and receives no government funding. They depend primarily on individual private contributions.