In a unanimous vote by the city council on Thursday, the city of Austin, Texas will now require so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post signs that say they do not offer abortion services or referrals to those that provide them.
Pregnancy centers that don’t offer or refer clients to abortion services or birth control services will now have to say that on signs posted at their facilities, the Austin City Council decided in a unanimous vote this morning.
Council Member Bill Spelman proposed the idea because he said it can be unclear to visitors to the centers what services they offer. The centers are not medical clinics and typically offer adoption counseling, pregnancy tests and financial assistance to women with unplanned pregnancies, but not other services, Spelman said.
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Spelman told the Statesman that violations of the law will be treated as merely a code violation, with possible “fines of up to $450 per offense.”
Austin is the second city to require such notices. The city of Baltimore passed such an ordinance last December. (For those curious what the required signs in Baltimore look like, an image of them can be seen here.) Many think that the ordinances have become necessary due to the misleading practices of many crisis pregnancy centers which have, in documented cases, mislead women into thinking they provide medical services and often provide outright incorrect information about abortion and birth control.
As a 2009 report by NARAL Pro-Choice Texas points out, CPCs are not required to have a licensed physician on staff at all times, nor are subject to inspection by the Texas Department of State and Health Services. Since they are staffed mostly by volunteers and not trained medical staff, CPCs also do not have to keep strict patient consent and confidentiality requirements (except for those in Texas receiving money from the federal Temporary Assistance of Needy Families program).