AMHERST, N.Y. — At the same time CompassCare Pregnancy Services CEO Jim Harden works with local and federal authorities to solve a firebombing attack last month against one of the organization’s centers outside of Buffalo, his legal team braces for an investigation into its practices by the New York State Health Commissioner, a move he considers “unethical, very unjust targeting.”
When The Tablet spoke with Harden about both investigations on June 23, he was confident that the people responsible would be brought to justice. As for the state’s probe, however, his only certainty about how it unfolds is that the organization will not comply.
“[The state] can’t just weaponize the legislature against us,” Harden said. “If we did something wrong, they should use the justice system, that’s the way it’s designed and that’s the way it should be used,” adding that “nothing is off the table” in terms of their response.
The impending investigation — which Harden said the organization hasn’t yet been contacted about — stems from new pro-abortion legislation New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed on June 13 that directs the New York State Department of Health’s Commissioner to conduct a study and issue a report examining the unmet health and resource needs facing pregnant people in New York, and the impact of “limited service” pregnancy centers.
In the text of the legislation, limited-service pregnancy centers are, in part, defined as pregnancy centers that fail “to provide the full range of comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care services under the state’s Medicaid program,” including abortion, contraception, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and prenatal care.
For the study, state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett may request and “shall receive upon request,” a wide range of information from the centers, including financial records, services provided and at what frequency, demographic information of patients, data specific to abortion services, and what information is given to clients.
Hochul argues that the investigation and resulting study “ensures New Yorkers have access to information and resources necessary to have healthy pregnancies with positive outcomes.”
Harden isn’t alone in his pushback against the investigation. The New York State Catholic Conference, ahead of Hochul signing the legislation, published a memorandum of opposition alleging that the study will be conducted with the predetermined outcome that the so-called “limited service” pregnancy centers are too limited by denying women access to abortion.
“By labeling pro-life pregnancy centers as ‘limited service pregnancy centers’ it appears the intention of the bill is to intimidate, silence, and shut down pro-life pregnancy centers,” the NYSCC statement reads. “A state that prides itself on being “pro-choice” should not be taking legislative action to obstruct the choice of childbirth.”
On June 7, a week before Hochul ordered the study into certain state pregnancy centers, the CompassCare center in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, New York, was firebombed and defaced with pro-abortion graffiti that read ‘Jane was here’ — the tag of the organization Jane’s Revenge that has carried out similar acts nationwide in protest of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The attack caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, Harden said, adding that rebuilding efforts began June 11, with an “aggressive” goal of reopening the facility and serving patients again on July 29. He said they’re even rebuilding the facility bigger, and will take steps to strengthen security both at the organization’s Buffalo location and Rochester site.
“We’re excited, the morale is high,” Harden said, adding that even though the investigation has gone slowly he’s “confident” that the Amherst Police Department and FBI will find the culprit.
In the meantime, Harden said CompassCare is unwavering in its commitment to serving pregnant women.
“We’re going to keep moving forward and we’re not going to stop,” Harden said. “They wanted to put fear in us. They didn’t succeed. They wanted us to stop serving women seriously considering abortion and we’re not going to because it’s so important.”