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Women seeking abortions in Pennsylvania must, under state law, be provided with a pamphlet that describes alternatives to terminating a pregnancy. But due to an embarrassing typographical error, the phone number listed repeatedly on the state’s current official guide to services for pregnant women is not an adoption network but a phone-sex chat line. A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health said yesterday that the phone number was “transposed” and that the correct number is 1-800-585-7926. The current version of the pamphlet lists the number as beginning with the extension 858. The snafu came to light yesterday when lawyers from the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia sent letters to Gov. Tom Ridge and Attorney General Mike Fisher notifying them of the problem and demanding that it be fixed. “Doesn’t it figure that Pennsylvania’s idea of services for pregnant women isn’t affordable child care, but a ‘hot phone sex service’?” said Carol E. Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project. Tracy said the pamphlet, the official Pennsylvania “Guide to Services for Pregnant Women,” which contains a county-by-county listing of adoption and other social services, is rife with inaccuracies. The directory repeatedly lists a wrong telephone number for the Statewide Adoption Network; the number leads callers to a business that identifies itself as a “hot phone-sex service.” Sue Frietsche, a staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project, said “This is what happens when the government thinks it knows how to run women’s lives. The fact that nobody found this mistake for over six years tells you how much the public has actually used these directories.” Frietsche said the cost of printing the first run of directories and brochures in 1994 was $120,000. “The money would have been a lot better spent on clinic protection and subsidized birth control,” she said. Since the law took effect in March 1994, the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act has required the state Department of Health to publish in English, Spanish and Vietnamese a directory of services for women seeking abortions. The law requires that any woman seeking an abortion must first be given the opportunity to read this directory, if she chooses to do so, with a brochure showing pictures of fetuses. The directories, recently updated by the current governor’s office, contain the same telephone number for the adoption network that was in the original version published under former Gov. Robert Casey. Leslie Anastasio, executive director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League, said Pennsylvania lawmakers “wanted to discourage women from getting abortions by showing them misleading images of fetal development and by overwhelming them with this list of all the resources that are supposedly out there to help them raise their children.” Anastasio said she has always been opposed to such efforts because “trying to talk women out of getting abortions by moralizing and feeding them half-truths is insulting and disrespectful. It’s pretty ironic that while our state government is impugning women’s ability to make moral decisions, it’s directing them to commercial sex lines.” In a press release, the Women’s Law Project included a transcript of what women hear when they call the incorrect number. A deep, male voice answers the line and says: “Yeah, baby, you’ve called the right place. If this is your first time, don’t be shy, give it a try. Come fly into my inferno. It’s the best time you’ll ever have. Trust me, when you’re done here, you’ll be back for more.” The voice goes on to identify the company that provides the sex line and instructs callers to hang up if they are under the age of 18 or if they “do not wish to be billed just $2.99 to $5.99 per minute.” Callers are then told of a $4.99 “connection fee” and are asked to enter their credit card number. “Remember, Visa is the card of choice for this hot phone sex service,” the voice says. “Billing will begin 30 seconds after the beginning of this call and will be discreetly billed for maximum confidentiality ensuring your total anonymity.” The final paragraph of the transcript is the most explicit: “So go ahead, ma’am. Put in that card number now for a mind-blowing totally sexual experience right now over the telephone — just you, me and my very hot athletic friends. If you don’t have a credit card and want to join the hot action, press the star key now. If you’re not on a touch-tone phone, please hold for another sizzling service just for you.” In a letter sent to Ridge yesterday, Frietsche, writing on behalf of the Allentown Women’s Center and other Pennsylvania abortion providers, said, “We are sure that you agree that it was not the intention of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in enacting Section 3208 [of the Abortion Control Act] to require the State Department of Health to refer women seeking adoption services to a commercial sex phone line. We request that you cease publication and distribution of these materials immediately.” In a similar letter to Attorney General Fisher, Frietsche set out to win protection for doctors who stop distributing the pamphlet. “We request that you issue an opinion clarifying that the provisions of Section 3205 requiring medical providers to offer women seeking abortion materials printed by the commonwealth are not in force while those publications are being corrected. As a matter of fairness, medical providers should not be subject to any penalty for failure to distribute official publications that have been withdrawn,” Frietsche wrote.

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