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Long Islander’s pregnancy dilemma part of Supreme Court case

Angela Jozwicki of Centereach with her 22-month-old son,

Angela Jozwicki of Centereach with her 22-month-old son, Cameron, on Monday in Holtsville. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Angela Jozwicki of Centereach was using heroin and cocaine when she found out she was pregnant a couple of years ago.

She had been pregnant before, nearly a decade earlier. She was using drugs then, too, and she was unmarried. She had an abortion.

Still single and still on drugs, Jozwicki was ready to have another abortion. But her boyfriend didn’t show up for the appointment, and it made her rethink her plans.

After researching options for single moms, Jozwicki ended up at Soundview Pregnancy Services in Centereach, where the counselors suggested she pray for an answer to her dilemma.

Today, the 33-year-old Jozwicki is mom to Cameryn, 22 months, and she credits Soundview for helping her get clean and teaching her how to parent.

Jozwicki’s positive experience with Soundview is detailed in a brief filed by the Catholic Association Fund in a U.S. Supreme Court case set to be heard Tuesday.

The case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, challenges a California law that requires licensed anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to let their clients know abortions and other medical services are available elsewhere. The institute has ties to 1,500 pregnancy centers nationwide, including Soundview.

A spokeswoman for Soundview declined to discuss the case Monday.

The centers exist to promote childbirth, said Anne O’Connor, NIFLA’s vice president of legal affairs, in an interview with The Associated Press.

“The crux of this issue is, can the government force anybody . . . to advertise for a message that they’re morally opposed to? We feel strongly that it violates our First Amendment rights,” O’Connor said.

California argues that it is not stepping on speech rights by requiring the centers to provide what it calls a neutral statement of fact about health care options for pregnant women.

Abortion-rights organizations contend the crisis pregnancy centers mislead women and pressure them not to have abortions.

The centers “only have one option, to carry a pregnancy to term. And they have one agenda, to stop women from accessing abortion care and birth control,” Amy Everitt, the California director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told AP.

On her first visit to Soundview, Jozwicki said there weren’t signs that seemed to steer clients away from abortion, but she did get the “feeling” that the staff members were more on the side of not ending the pregnancy. She said the center’s counselors didn’t discuss abortion with her.

“They’re there to support you in whatever decision you make, but I think they’re against abortions although they didn’t tell me that,” Jozwicki said. “They let me know, ‘You can do this’ ” when it came to raising a baby on her own.

Jozwicki said she struggled to make a decision because she knew she had to commit to staying off drugs; her mother, with whom she lives in Centereach, wasn’t in the position to raise another child.

“She’s 75 and works part-time,” Jozwicki explained. “My mom was also afraid because she didn’t know if the baby was going to be healthy [because of the drug use].”

From her first visit, Jozwicki said she thought Soundview could help her. She saw an ultrasound picture and then returned every week for counseling and to watch videos about pregnancy and child care. She even had a Soundview staff member in the room when she delivered Cameryn.

“I instantly felt at home, like a family,” Jozwicki said.

Today, the center’s counselors still work with Jozwicki. With their help, she has enrolled in the federal nutrition program for women and children and has applied for financial aid from the Suffolk County Department of Social Services.

And Jozwicki said the counselors have given her perhaps what the help she needs the most — support — so that she doesn’t go back to using drugs.

Being a single mom is in fact difficult, Jozwicki said, but Cameryn is “perfect.”