Feedback: Readers weigh in on pregnancy resource center coverage 

click to enlarge The interior of Focus Pregnancy Help Center features an abundance of religious paraphernalia. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • The interior of Focus Pregnancy Help Center features an abundance of religious paraphernalia.

Choose life

I am greatly disappointed that the story "Lawmakers take aim at pregnancy resource centers" in the June issue was just another "us versus them" story about abortion rights. Here are just a few of my disappointments:
  • The article features only Mary Jost, the founder of Focus Pregnancy Help Center, defending her agency's work, while pitting her against Michele Casey, CEO of the local Planned Parenthood; Assembly member Sarah Clark, a co-sponsor of the legislation; and Lauren deLancey of the Rochester Socialist Feminist Collective.
  • There are no interviews with women who were happy with the services they received from Focus. Instead, I read about a woman who is happy to have received her surgical abortion at Planned Parenthood seven years ago.
  • The article reviews the printed materials available at Focus, but there is no review of the literature handed out at Planned Parenthood.
  • Clark is quoted as saying about the pro-life movement that "this is a movement that blows up clinics." Is she unaware of Jane's Revenge and other groups that have vandalized and set on fire agencies similar to Focus since the Supreme Court decision was leaked?
  • Casey complains about Caring Choices offering free ultrasounds. "From what people have said, they wear white coats, presenting as medical people when they're not medical people at all." Did the reporter bother to check out this hearsay and interview a representative of Caring Choices? Apparently not.
I hope that if City tackles this topic again, it does it with greater insight and balance.

Jane Sutter Brandt, Pittsford

STORY:  New York is looking into whether pregnancy resource centers steer women away from abortions

I disagree with the negative portrayal of Focus Pregnancy Help Center in the article "Pregnancy Resource Centers: Healthcare or Religious Propaganda?"

I have donated to Focus Pregnancy Help Center and my son volunteered there as part of his McQuaid Jesuit High School senior capstone project. Focus is made up of dedicated, good-hearted volunteers who do not receive government funds and subsist on shoestring donations. Focus mainly gives away things to needy moms and children, and their "clients" are grateful. Since the publication of the article, CompassCare Pregnancy Services in Buffalo, a non-profit, volunteer-based crisis pregnancy center (CPS) similar to Focus, was firebombed because they do pro-life advocacy, including giving away material aid.

What is everyone so afraid and why is New York state government investigating CPCs instead of Planned Parenthood and their deceptive practices? The CITY article, the legislation that the article noted was passed by the Assembly, and the firebombing in Buffalo are more example of the blatant discrimination pro-life folks and organizations who help pregnant moms face.

As a pro-life feminist, I can attest, no matter what we do (adopt children, sit on the Board of Children Awaiting Parents or the House of Mercy) we are written off by liberal organizations because we do not support killing unborn children.

Jessica Shanahan, Brighton

For almost 10 years, I've volunteered at a pregnancy resource center in Rochester.
Women have kept this center operating through donations and volunteer community support. It provides free car seats, pack n' plays, diapers, clothing, formula, and more to families before their child's birth, and throughout childhood.

With this in mind, I was shocked when I read "Pregnancy Resource Centers: Healthcare or Religious Propaganda?" The article lacked any information regarding the material aid and support that is relied upon by the most vulnerable members of our community: underserved mothers and their children. The article clearly favored Planned Parenthood, whose annual report shows $1.6 billion in yearly revenue.

According to the Limited Services Pregnancy Center Bill, which the article described and was recently signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, pregnancy resource centers that do not refer or provide abortion services are subject to investigations, such as the use of "coercive tactics." The failure to provide or refer abortions services is included as a "tactic."

Though the stated aim of the bill is the launch of a study examining the unmet health and resource needs of pregnant women, it ignores a vast array of service providers that interface with pregnant women. The bill's study excludes every single abortion-providing center, including all Planned Parenthoods throughout the state.

The double standard does not stop there. It is much easier for abortion clinics to manipulate and coerce young women to terminate their pregnancy. Unlike most states, New York does not have informed consent laws, which require, among other things, that women receive information regarding life-affirming resources. Michigan, Georgia, and Ohio, for example, require abortion providers to present women with information regarding abortion alternatives.

Furthermore, in the case of a minor receiving an abortion, neither parental consent nor parental notification are required in New York.

We have reached a place where community members offering free support are deemed "coercive" and "extreme." These centers are a place of hope and love for the whole community. Giving them a bad name is an atrocity.

Anna Harvey
Harvey is a policy intern at Feminists Choosing Life of New York

CITY: Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the bill mandating a study of pregnancy resource centers into law in June.

Rethinking Roc's highways

As Rochester looks to remove the Inner Loop North, a significant question has arisen: Should the new street grid replacing the Inner Loop directly connect to Interstate 490?

The Inner Loop North's draft planning study says most motorists who use the Inner Loop are either coming from or going to the I-490 interchange, making it essential to retain access to it regardless of the re-design of the corridor. I would disagree and argue that building a connection to Interstate 490 does not move toward eliminating vehicle miles traveled and lessoning carbon dioxide emissions and is a step backward in the fight against climate change.

It is time for Rochester to reevaluate and reimagine the two highways that cut through the city's core — Interstate 490 and the Keeler Street Expressway — and improve Interstates 390 and 590, which surround the city.

The Keeler Street Expressway is an excellent example of highway infrastructure that does more harm than good for our community. It stifles future development, isn't bicycle-friendly, and physically separates Rochester and Irondequoit.

A great example of what the Keeler Street Expressway could become exists in Atlanta, Georgia. The John Lewis Freedom Parkway there exists today where Interstate 485 would have been. Thanks to community opposition, the road was instead transformed into a parkway with trails, bicycle lanes, and expanded green space. Imagine a multi-model boulevard with trails and bicycle lanes connecting the Irondequoit Bay trails to the Genesee River gorge trails. Rethinking the Keeler Street Expressway could be a game-changer for active transportation investment in Rochester.

Interstate 490's future in Rochester should not be promised. Instead of a highway cutting through the center of Rochester, we could reimagine the Interstate as a green spine that connects and restitches the center of Rochester. Imagine a future where Cobbs Hill Park is connected to downtown via this green spine, or West Main Street without the visual barrier disconnecting it from downtown.
All of these things are possible with the continued support of the state and federal government to reimagine urban highways. It doesn't have to stop after the Inner Loop North is removed.

This is why it's so important that the community reject any proposal to connect the Inner Loop North's future street grid to I-490. The interstate's future is yet to be determined by our community.

Jay Arzu
Arzu is a native of the 19th Ward who is now a doctoral student in city and regional planning at the Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania.

Keeping us informed

br> Just catching up on CITY and want to thank you for the article on what's going on with 5 and 15 Flint Sts. ("For sale: Toxic riverfront property," June 2022.)

I live in the 19th Ward right on the edge of PLEX and pass that site all the time, and I have wondered why no one's doing anything with what seems like prime property, although we're also concerned about the gentrification that's happening on the other side of the river potentially spilling over to the west side.

There is some beautiful art on 5 Flint St., but I wish they would clean up the site and put something usable there in keeping with the neighborhood. I hope you keep covering this and do a follow-up if and/or when something happens with the property ownership.

I know local reporting is a hard job. I'm so grateful for CITY and the reporting you all are doing.

Adrienne Pettinelli, Rochester

'Boo' to the zoo

Plans for yet another expansion of the Seneca Park Zoo further threatens the beautiful Olmsted-designed Seneca Park.

Recent studies about the lives of zoo animals and related surveys suggest a growing antipathy toward zoos in general. The displacement of the native animal residents of the park for the purpose of caging beautiful creatures who don't belong there is a travesty.

Our view of chain link fences as we sit by the pond or picnic with family in the park is an atrocity. Mr. Olmsted would not be pleased. Stop the madness.

Veronica Miller, Irondequoit


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