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Report: Pro-life pregnancy centers in Latin America unfairly attacked by Spanish newspaper

null / ACI Prensa

Madrid, Spain, Dec 7, 2021 / 11:50 am (CNA).

Pro-life pregnancy centers in Latin America were unfairly and inaccurately portrayed in a recent article published by a Spanish newspaper, an investigation by ACI Prensa has found.

The article, titled “The New Anti-Abortion Tactics of the Far Right in the Americas” was published on Oct. 23 by the El País newspaper.

Based on undercover reporting by journalists who posed as pregnant women, the El País ­­article accuses pregnancy centers in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Mexico of using “strategies that include deceptive advertising, shelters for pregnant women and false promises of adoption to convince vulnerable women to not interrupt their pregnancy.”  

These organizations “are promoted on the internet as feminist sites and with deceptive language in favor of abortion, but in reality they function as avenues to manipulate and instituionalize women and try to get them to carry their pregnancy to term,” El País claimed.

A subsequent investigation by ACI Prensa, the Spanish-language sister news agency of CNA, found that El País article contained a host of misleading and unsubstantiated claims. Among ACI Prensa’s findings:

El País uses the misleading term “institutionalize” to refer to the housing, medical, psychological, and material assistance these pregnancy centers provide women in need. El País’ own reporting acknowledges that “some of these women, according to their own testimony, were grateful to have a place to live and carry their pregnancy to term; others, of having been able to get out of a situation of domestic violence.” 

The two “experts” El País cites to verify its claims are both pro-abortion activists. One has stated that she does not believe “that adoption is a morally superior option to abortion, or that increased adoption would be good for women and families.” The other heads a Peruvian NGO that has received more than $1 million in funding from Planned Parenthood.

There is no evidence that any of the pregnancy centers have been sanctioned for offering to provide illegal adoption services, as El País suggests. The article alleges that a child protection agency in Costa Rica has taken legal action against one of the pregnancy support organizations, but the organization’s director told ACI Prensa that she’s never been notified about any legal action and said, “we work according to the law.”

The pregnancy centers cited in the report aren’t posing as abortion clinics, as El País claims. El País accuses the same Costa Rican organization of presenting itself as an abortion clinic, but the director says that the organization’s website clear states that it provides counseling and other support, not abortion services.

●  The “false information” El País alleges the pregnancy centers share about the dangers of abortion are supported by medical studies. The El País article states that their undercover reporters “were shown videos and pamphlets with false information about abortion,” including increased risks of suicide and breast cancer, and the possibility that using chemical means to induce the killing of a fetus can result in an incomplete abortion and dangerous heavy bleeding. But there is medical evidence to support all these advisories, ACI Prensa found.

Jesús Magaña, president of the United for Life platform in Colombia, told ACI Prensa that the El País article “has a clear tendency to promote organizations that want to impose abortion on us in the region.”

“It’s not true that the women’s aid centers carry out any activity that is illegal in relation to adoption” in Colombia, Magaña explained. 

“On the contrary: They are women’s support centers where they are welcomed, received, listened to and supported; and thanks to this work it is possible to save the lives of mothers and babies,” he said.

The El País journalists who produced the article did not respond to ACI Prensa’s requests for comment.

Pro-abortion support for article

To validate their report, El País journalists cite two abortion advocates as “experts”: Susana Chávez and Gretchen Sisson.

Chávez is a veteran activist in support of legal abortion, with many years at the head of Promsex, a Peruvian NGO that has received more than a million dollars in 16 years from Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion multinational organization.

This money came from both its parent company, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and its U.S. branch, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which has been accused of trafficking in organs and tissues from babies aborted at its facilities. Chávez failed in her bid to win a seat in Peru’s Congress in the 2020 presidential and congressional elections. Chávez also led Promsex in its failed attempt to silence ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, and hide its ties to Planned Parenthood.

A recent ruling by the Second Constitutional Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of Lima dismissed all charges filed by Promsex against ACI Prensa for allegedly making false statements and defamation.

In early October 2021, Planned Parenthood awarded the “We Are Courage” award to Promsex, calling the NGO “one of the most courageous and inspiring voices for sexual and reproductive rights.” 

Chávez told El País that it’s a lie that the organizations that give shelter to women in crisis pregnancies really help them with the adoption procedures when they don’t want to keep their children.

“In reality, what they seek is to discourage the girl, the adolescent, the women, from having an abortion with a false promise that they will never keep,” Chávez charged.

Sisson, the other expert cited in El País’ report, is the principal investigator of the “Abortion on Screen” program of the research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIHR) at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Abortion on Screen” is a program that is dedicated to evaluating and listing films and television productions with “stories about abortion.”

Sisson told El País that she’s not sure “that there are many women interested in abortion who then turn to adoption unless they are given a lot of misinformation about the accessibility or safety of abortion itself.”

Sisson has been explicit in the past that she doesn’t believe “that adoption is a morally superior option to abortion, or that increased adoption would be good for women and families.”

The El País article itself was funded by a pro-abortion foundation supported by CNN, CBS, and other U.S. media outlets, ACI Prensa found. El País states that the reporting for the story was done “with the support of the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) as part of its initiative for the Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice in the Americas program.” 

IWMF says on its website that “this initiative supports reporting on issues that impact women and girl’s daily lives in the region, including abortion and contraception access, maternal health, reproductive health policy and abortion bans.”

The El País presents the article as a “follow-up to an Open Democracy investigation of Heartbeat International’s operations” in Latin America.

That report was published in February 2020 and leveled accusations against Heartbeat International and Latin American pro-life centers.

Open Democracy is a publication that claims to seek to “educate citizens and challenge power and encourage democratic debate across the world.”

Between 2016 and 2020, Open Democracy has received more than $1.6 million from the Open Society Foundations, an organization established by George Soros, who is an open promoter of legal abortion in the world, ACI Prensa found. The CIDE, where Eliezer Budasoff teaches, has received between 2016 and 2018 more than $470,000 from the Soros foundation, the news agency reported.

Interview distortions

Isabella Cota, one of the authors of the El País article, made a phone call Oct. 18 five days before the publication of the article to Dr. Miguel Ángel Salazar, medical advisor to the Latin American network of Women’s Aid Centers (CAM), a pro-life organization.

El País includes brief segments of Salazar’s response in the article and ends by saying that he “abruptly hung up.”

ACI Prensa reported that its review of an audio recording of the interview shows that Salazar ended the conversation in a friendly manner in the face of a series of false accusations from the El País journalist.

Salazar provided ACI Prensa with a sworn statement that Cota had identified herself to him as a journalist from the New York Times. ACI Prensa sent a query to the Times on Nov. 2 about its contractual relationship with Isabella Cota but did not receive a response.

Salazar told ACI Prensa that “from the beginning, far from being an interview, [Cota] described all the false accusations aimed at CAM by the group that allegedly infiltrated it. Acting as a judge and a prosecutor, and in an inquisitorial way, she asks me for comments on the aforementioned accusations.”

Salazar stated that “it was clear” that “Isabella Cota’s intention was to create a provocation that was intended to manipulate me and make me mention accusations that [the journalists] themselves could use against CAM.”

Salazar said that “none of the CAMs carry out adoption procedures. For this we work with sister and respectable institutions such as Vida y Familia A.C. (Life and Family) which for many years has been dedicated to promoting a culture of adoption and performs these services in a professional, legal and transparent manner, always in accordance with the legal framework in force in our country and in each state of the Mexican Republic.” 

In addition, Salazar stressed that “before going to a CAM” none of the women “are deceived or informed that an abortion will be performed there,” as the El País article claimed.

On the contrary, Salazar explained, “they are offered support where we assess their situation, respecting the decisions of each one of them.”

Although Cota and her fellow journalists from El País present the protection of pregnant women as a series of “new tactics,” the CAM network has provided the same services for 32 years, ACI Prensa noted. The first of the Women’s Help Centers opened its doors in Mexico City in 1989.

In the photographs that accompany the article, games for children can be seen as an example of a safe and welcoming environment.

‘They want to torpedo something so good’

Another organization attacked in the El País article is Vida y Familia A.C. (Vifac) is even older than the CAM network and has assisted more than 46,000 pregnant women during its 36 years of work. 

On its website, Vifac explains that its objective is “to support vulnerable pregnant women who face an unexpected pregnancy and require help and support to move on in their lives with their children and achieve better living conditions.”

Vifac offers lodging, food, medical and psychological care, job training workshops, talks for the prevention of teen pregnancy, and help with the adoption process for women at risk.

Despite noting the gratitude of the women served at the Vifac facilities in the state of Mexico, El País cites a source from the National System for the Integral Development of the Family (DIF), stating that the Mexican government agency has advised Vifac of “possible illicit practices concerning adoptions.”

Vifac denies that it has violated the law. “The trafficking of minors is a criminal offense. Vifac has never been tried for this crime,” the organization states on its website.

Vifac denies “forcing” women to give their children up for adoption, stating that each woman who seeks the organization’s assistance “comes of her own free will with the intention of being helped, supported and to move on in life with her child.”

Vifac claims that only 10% of its clients choose to place their children up for adoption. “In 2020 of the 3,535 babies that were born under our protection, only 51 were given up for adoption and in accordance with DIF regulations,” Vifac states.

Mariana Ariza is a 22-year-old Mexican woman who was adopted thanks to the help of Vifac. Her two younger brothers are also adopted.

“I’m disappointed they want to torpedo something so good,” she said of the El País article.

For Ariza, now a pro-life leader as director of the Juventud y Vida (Youth and Life) platform in Puebla, Mexico, the story of “happy adoptive parents” should be known.

“They have to meet the women who have given testimonies of ‘thank you because I was able to go on with my life and I was able to give life to a baby and that it could have parents and be happy,’” Ariza said.

“Really these associations, foundations, what they do is create families, save lives, help women,” she said.

While Ariza doesn’t know the exact life story of her biological mother, she told ACI Prensa that “because of Vifac she was able to make the best decision.”

“Thanks to that support, she had the courage to say ‘yes, I give her life, I give her the opportunity to live.’ And that option saved her at that time and saved me, because thanks to all that support, she was able to say yes to life,” Ariza said.

For the Women’s Institute for Comprehensive Health of Costa Rica (IFEMSI), another of the organizations accused by El País, the article is nothing more than “a rehash,” a text that collects old reports and makes them pass for something new.

In an interview with ACI Prensa, Priscilla Díaz García, executive director of IFEMSI, warned that the Spanish newspaper’s journalists “are getting involved with a very sensitive issue because they are claiming that adoptions are taking place outside the framework of the law, which is totally false.”

“The reason why they’re doing it, according to my reading, is that, as the first time they did an article, they were ridiculed, this time they tried to introduce the legal issue to create more controversy,” Díaz García said.

El País accuses IFEMSI of presenting itself “on the internet as an abortion clinic,” which Díaz García denies.

The organization’s website, www.quieroabortarcr.com, which means “I want to abort,” [SM2] states “at all times that we provide counseling, unlike what this media says: that we deceive women and all those kinds of things they mention,” Díaz García said.

“What our organization does through this page is to give counseling to these girls so that they have more alternatives, one of them is to continue with the pregnancy through the support they receive from our organization,” she stressed.

Díaz García also denied the assertion in the El País article that the National Children’s Trust (PANI), a government agency that safeguards the rights of children and adolescents in Costa Rica, has taken legal action against IFEMSI.

Díaz García told ACI Prensa that “I haven’t received any kind of notification,” about any legal action. “We work according to the law,” she stressed.

“The government agencies know how we work,” she continued, noting that “if this possible complaint comes, we have a record of visits from government agencies to learn how we operate,” she said.

Another pro-life organization targeted in the El País article is the Fundación Hogar Margarita (Margarita Home Foundation) in Costa Rica.

The article charges that the foundation “promises to facilitate or arrange adoption, even if they are false or illegal.” The article claims that the organization gave an undercover journalist “confusing messages” suggesting “that the foundation would be in charge of the process outside the Colombian Family Welfare Institute, the agency in charge of adoptions in Colombia.”

The foundation denies the charges and has demanded that “the El País newspaper rectify the information they gave.”

The foundation states that it has spent “34 years dedicated to the comprehensive protection of pregnant women in a vulnerable state and in conflict with their pregnancy, with a No. 3102 operating license dated March 31, 2020 from the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare in the category of a Home.”

When mothers decide to give their babies up for adoption, they are referred “to the Colombian Family Welfare Institute, which is the only regulatory agency for childhood in the country, therefore the only one authorized to carry out adoption processes,” the foundation states.

Abortion warnings aren’t ‘false’

The El País article states that their reporters who visited the pregnancy help centers “were shown videos and pamphlets with false information about abortion, such as that it could lead to suicide and they could suffer from post-abortion syndrome, a kind of psychological impact whose existence has not been proven.” 

The El País journalists continue: “They said that the use of the misoprostol pill can lead to an ‘incomplete’ abortion that can cause an infection; that an abortion can cause breast cancer, uncontrollable hemorrhaging, death and even a possible leg amputation.”

Dr. María José Mancino, a psychiatrist and specialist in psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrinology, told ACI Prensa that “post-abortion syndrome is a reality, it’s a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome.”

Mancino, who is also founder and president of Doctors for Life Argentina, as well as a professional advisor to Project Rachael, which helps women who have undergone an abortion, said that “the most characteristic symptoms” of post-abortion syndrome “are depression, anxiety, stress and difficulty sleeping.” 

Psychological symptoms, she said, “range from general symptoms of denial in the early years, followed by depression, feelings of guilt, the need to make amends for or change what happened, recurring nightmares, behavioral disturbances, flashbacks (constant memories of the abortion), avoidance and/or rejection of stimuli that recall the episode.”

You can also see “impulsive disorders,” she continued, such as “increasing addictions, alcoholism, and suicide, depending on the woman’s personality base and her prior psychological condition.”

Dr. Guillermo Kerz, a specialist in gynecology and obstetrics and vice president of Doctors for Life and academic vice-rector of the Catholic University of Santa Fe in Argentina, stressed that “abortion is a violent intervention performed on women, not to mention that the baby is cruelly killed in the act.”

“Every medical surgical intervention has its consequences and this is no exception. It’s reckless from every point of view to argue that it is false that women do not suffer after an abortion, medicine is a factual science, based on facts,” he said.

MedlinePlus, an information service of the United States National Library of Medicine, recognizes the risks of an abortion performed with medications such as misoprostol, including the possibility of “an incomplete abortion,” after which “it will be necessary to have an abortion at the clinic to complete the abortion.” MedlinePlus also states that “heavy bleeding,” “infection” and “blood clots in the uterus” may occur.

Heavy bleeding may entail that the woman “is soaking 2 sanitary napkins every hour for 2 hours,” while “blood clots for 2 hours or more” can be expelled, in some cases “larger than a lemon.” These cases, MedlinePlus notes, “should be dealt with immediately for your safety.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that it has been reported that the use of misoprostol to induce labor, as is the case with chemical abortions, can cause “pelvic pain, retained placenta, severe genital bleeding, shock, fetal bradycardia and fetal and maternal death.”

Pro-life centers ‘work as they should’

El País says its undercover journalists went to pregnancy help centers in El Salvador, but, as in the case of Argentina, it doesn’t say which ones.

If they had contacted the Yes to Life Foundation of El Salvador, their journalists would know of the nearly 12,000 lives that they have managed to save from abortion.

For Julia Regina de Cardenal, president of the Yes to Life Foundation, the text of El País is an “absurd article,” since its authors “defend the indefensible, a legal barbarism against defenseless little people.” 

“In our Help Center, almost 12,000 lives have been saved just by showing them the reality of abortion,” she said.

The women whom they receive at their shelter, she said, “are the ones who have nowhere else to go. All receive shelter, a balanced diet, clothing, if they are poor, training, medical care, psychological and spiritual help, etc.”

“And if they stay with us for a long time and their children are already two years old, they also go to school,” she stressed.

To Sara Larín, founder of the VIDA (Life) SV Foundation of El Salvador, the El País report shows “that pro-life homes work as they should.”

“The report confirms what we have always said: A pregnant woman in crisis who receives unconditional support decides in 90% of the cases to not have an abortion and keep her baby. That’s wonderful!”

In addition, she said that the El País report reveals “two important things.” The first is that “it’s the pro-life groups that really take charge of helping vulnerable women so that they can be genuinely free to live their motherhood without being conditioned by the circumstantial problems that are pressuring them.”

The second thing, she added, is “that the Open Society Foundation is obsessed with imposing abortion on us culturally.”

For Magaña, president of Colombia’s United for Life platform, the position of the journalists is “sad and regrettable,” because “it seems that they are doing a job in some way previously ‘paid for’ to obtain an expected result and not an objective investigation.”

“This situation is very sad but predictable, because this abortion industry is an industry of death. If you don’t mind killing, much less will you mind lying, confusing or cheating in order to remove this ‘obstacle’ for the industry and your business,” he said.

The pro-life leader lamented that the El País article shows “the tendency to criminalize or stigmatize extraordinary heroines and heroes who give their time, energy and life to help moms and their unborn babies.”

Harumi Suzuki, Diego López Marina and Walter Sánchez Silva contributed to this article.