Crisis pregnancy center reps, reproductive choice advocates talk privacy concerns

PRESIDIO — At a meeting hosted last Wednesday by the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Big Bend, members of a new nonprofit called the Presidio Pregnancy Center, who had requested to be on the agenda, responded to questions raised by reproductive choice advocates from the Big Bend Reproductive Coalition (BBRC). Their conversation centered around privacy concerns raised about new laws that allow reporting people seeking abortion to the state. 

In the past few weeks, the Presidio Pregnancy Center has made appearances at public meetings including Presidio City Council and the Presidio Municipal Development District to introduce themselves and their mission. In a departure from previous meetings, last Wednesday’s Zoom call was joined by over a dozen people hoping to start a dialogue about the intricacies and risks involved with Texas reproductive rights laws.

The Presidio Pregnancy Center, headed by founder and Board President Lynette Brehm, is affiliated with Care Net, a network of over 1,100 crisis pregnancy centers in the United States with an explicitly evangelical Christian, anti-abortion worldview. “We’re not doing this alone,” Brehm said of the center’s affiliation with Care Net. 

When the project was first announced, Lisa Kettyle of the BBRC raised the alarm. Representing an organization that promotes reproductive choice, sex education and contraception, she was concerned about how the center’s message could impact vulnerable Big Bend communities. 

Kettyle felt that the Presidio Pregnancy Center was “predatory” and followed a model that existed solely to dissuade women from seeking abortions — under the guise of offering medical advice. “Care Net is renowned for collecting people’s private information, they’re renowned for being anti abortion,” she said in an interview with The Big Bend Sentinel. “They’re renowned for giving false information or misleading information.”

Chief among Kettyle’s concerns: crisis pregnancy centers do not have to be staffed by medical professionals, despite promises to provide “care” and “counseling” on the health of mother and child. These organizations are not bound by HIPAA laws protecting patient privacy — which BBRC advocates found concerning. 

In the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade — the Supreme Court decision protecting the federal right to seek an abortion — the state of Texas passed a battery of laws restricting abortion care, which is now effectively illegal within state lines. These laws also enable private citizens and medical professionals to report anyone “aiding and abetting” an abortion. 

At Wednesday’s meeting, Kettyle pointedly asked about the Presidio Pregnancy Center’s stance on HIPAA. Brehm explained that medical professionals were not the only people bound by HIPAA — she cited school districts and her own work at the Big Bend Regional Hospital District, both of which are bound by HIPAA. She said that a notice would be posted at the facility and that employees would adopt HIPAA best practices.

Kettyle pressed further, asking about a scenario in which pregnancy center staff discovered that a potential client had traveled out of state to seek an abortion. “I wonder if somebody comes into the Presidio Pregnancy Center and then decides not to pursue a pregnancy or needs to pursue miscarriage management … if the crisis center will pursue criminal charges,” she said. 

Brehm hesitated, but ultimately answered in the negative. “That’s not our role,” she said.