CBS Outdoors Being Sued By Anti-Choice Group That May or May Not Exist

Robin Marty

An anti-abortion group claims the company refused to put up their billboard, violating their first amendment rights.

CBS Outdoors is being sued for refusing to put up the anti-abortion display for which the group “Life Education Counsel” paid them, claiming their message and graphic was too issue-oriented.

Via Courthouse News:

But CBS told the plaintiffs that “CBS did not approve LEC’s art work due to its ‘issue oriented message'” and asked it to consider “changing ‘Abortion kills babies’ to something like ‘Life Education Counsel can help,'” according to the complaint. T

he group says CBS employee Diane Curry told it in a phone call “that CBS did not approve LEC’s art work due to its ‘issue oriented message’ because some people don’t believe ‘abortion kills babies.’ Diane Curry advised that she agreed with LEC’s message but CBS does not allow ‘issue oriented messages.'”

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This phone call came on Nov. 1, 2010, but the group said it had sent a signed agreement to CBS Outdoor in October, with an $1,100 check, which was cashed.

The Counsel says it responded by offering “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart” as an alternative, but CBS “indicated there was still a problem,” and that the artwork would be approved only if a picture of a baby was cut from the ad.

The group’s spokesperson, Betty LaRosa, complained that the advertiser was attempting to “dilute” their message, and is suing for $7500 in potential lost donations, two years of free advertising on another billboard, and other damages.

Betty LaRosa is the head of the New Jersey Republicans Pro-Life Coalition.  A google search shows no existence of a Life Education Counsel, an incredibly vague and benign name for an anti-choice group.  Is it diabolical to suggest that perhaps an approach was made and an agreement signed between CBS and LEC with CBS having no idea who the group was and what they would want in their billboard, and only after learned that LEC would want to put up advertising that goes against the company’s mission?  And would it be even more diabolical to suggest that perhaps such a gambit could then bring LEC a net profit of $6,000 or more in settlement, as well as two years of free advertising, all with very little effort, allowing this group to then settle in quite nicely as well as garner publicity through a lawsuit?

If, of course, the Life Education Counsel exists at all.

News Law and Policy

Oakland Could Outlaw False Advertising by Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Nicole Knight Shine

California already requires CPCs to post information about free or low-cost abortion care or contraception in their facilities. The proposed ordinance would penalize licensed and unlicensed "limited service pregnancy centers" for making untrue or misleading statements in ads, online, and in publications.

Elected leaders in Oakland, California, want to crack down on crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) with a truth-in-advertising ordinance.

A panel of some members of the city council on Tuesday took up the proposed measure during a Life Enrichment Committee meeting, arguing that many of these religiously run centers target pregnant people with deceptive billboards, websites, and search engine results for “abortion.”

California already requires CPCs to post information about free or low-cost abortion care or contraception in their facilities. The proposed ordinance would penalize licensed and unlicensed “limited service pregnancy centers” for making untrue or misleading statements in ads, online, and in publications. The ordinance also applies to statements of omission, meaning the withholding of information. Violators would be given ten days to take corrective action by the city attorney, and could face civil fines from $50 to $500. Penalties also include running new ads to correct deceptive ones.

“Crisis pregnancy centers put their ideological agenda ahead of women’s health,” Oakland Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington told those gathered in chambers. “They target what they call ‘abortion-minded women’ with deceptive advertising, implying they offer abortion services or referrals.”

Campbell Washington said the new “consumer protection measure” was necessary because individuals who go to CPCs are “being lied to.”

Baltimore, Maryland, was the first city in the nation to enact a similar truth-in-advertising ordinance, which has been blocked amid a court challenge. In 2011, San Francisco passed a similar ordinance. It prevailed after a protracted court battle, when a district judge said the First Amendment does not protect false and misleading commercial speech.

During public comments, Christina Malin, director of family health services for Alameda County Public Health Department, expressed support for the ordinance, noting that CPCs inflict harm by targeting low-income communities of color in particular. She described receiving a voicemail message from a CPC worker asking for help with an undocumented client with a high-risk pregnancy. Malin never learned what happened to the patient.

Malin also noted that county prenatal clinics had observed a tendency by CPCs to refer their clients to county facilities for medical care once the client reached about 24 weeks of pregnancy, when the individual “can no longer terminate easily” and abortion care, while lawful, is more expensive. These former CPC clients, Malin added, arrive without records of appropriate prenatal medical care, such as lab work.

Campbell Washington noted that CPCs are difficult for clients to vet on their own because a facility will frequently change its name.

Rewire found, for example, the state has licensed the CPC Third Box Pregnancy Clinic to operate at 400 30th Street #401 in Oakland under the legal name First Resort. But online and in Yelp reviews the facility at 400 30th Street #401 is called Support Circle Pregnancy Clinic.

First Resort, as it turns out, is the same religiously run nonprofit that challenged the San Francisco ordinance, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported. In its print and online ads in San Francisco, First Resort claimed to offer “abortion information, resources and compassionate support for women facing the crucial decisions that surround unintended pregnancies and are considering abortion,” although it did not refer clients to abortion providers or provide abortion care.

On Tuesday, Amy Everitt, state director of the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice California, showed those gathered in chambers how a Google search for “Oakland” and “abortion” produced results with three clinics, two of which were CPCs. She noted that a 2015 NARAL investigation found that 91 percent of CPCs in the report dispensed false information.

Google has said it would correct its inaccurate search results.

The measure now heads to the full Oakland City Council after unanimously clearing the Life Enrichment Committee.

The ordinance comes amid reports in Sacramento and Los Angeles of CPCs flouting the new state law requiring pregnancy-related centers, including CPCs, to post a brief notice about access to free and low-cost abortion care and contraception.

The Los Angeles City Attorney recently announced that his office would begin cracking down on violators of the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act, as Rewire reported. But some jurisdictions have chosen not to enforce the law while five lawsuits against the FACT Act are pending.

Officials running CPCs contend they’d rather close than comply, and say in court filings the law violates their First Amendment rights.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Matt Bowman, who is representing the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates in challenging the FACT Act, said in a statement earlier this month thatforcing [the centers] to promote abortion and recite the government’s messages is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms.”

Commentary Sexual Health

Yes, Camille Paglia, Let’s Put Sex Back in Sex Ed—But Not Fear, Shame, or Stereotypes

Martha Kempner

In a recent editorial, Paglia argues for moving toward a sex ed model in which young people learn reproductive biology in one class, study sexually transmitted diseases in another, and get a healthy dose of fear, shame, and gender stereotypes in yet another. But sexuality educators disagree.

In an editorial in TIME magazine’s Ideas Issue called “Put the Sex Back in Sex Ed,” writer Camille Paglia (a self-described “dissident feminist”) argues for moving toward a model in which young people learn reproductive biology in one class, study sexually transmitted diseases in another, and get a healthy dose of fear, shame, and gender stereotypes in yet another. What students should never get in school, according to Paglia, is “a political endorsement of homosexuality and gay rights causes” or a package of condoms.

Needless to say, as a sexuality educator, I disagree with most of her assertions here. And, not surprisingly, when I checked in with my colleagues in the field, they did too.  

In presenting her argument for separate classes, Paglia notes that sex ed classes are often taught by teachers without enough training and know-how. She writes, “Sex-ed teachers range from certified health educators to volunteers and teenage ‘peer educators’ with minimal training.” I agree that we need better training for those who teach young people about sex—a teacher who knows little more than his or her students will get nothing accomplished, nor will an embarrassed educator who blushes when trying to pronounce the word clitoris. I would argue, however, that peer educators are often the best trained, least embarrassed, and most informed class leaders around. I also question the wisdom of her solution, which seems to be dividing up the subject of sex into its core components, starting with reproductive biology. She writes:

First, anatomy and reproductive biology belong in general biology courses taught in middle school by qualified science teachers. Every aspect of physiology, from puberty to menopause, should be covered. Students deserve a cool, clear, objective voice about the body, rather than the smarmy, feel-good chatter that now infests sex-ed workbooks.

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I’ve reviewed a lot of sex education workbooks, as she calls them, and I’m wondering where she is finding all of this feel-good chatter. Personally, I’m more familiar with the ones that fail to draw external female genitalia, never label the clitoris, or describe the vagina as a sperm depository. But we can put that aside for the moment. Letting a biology teacher tackle the inner workings of the body is not unreasonable—some of the best sexuality courses I took in college and graduate school were straightforward biology courses, and I still refer to my notes from one of them some 20 years later. However, waiting until middle school—when biology teachers first appear—will mean the information about puberty is more of a history lesson for some students (the average age of breast buds, for example, is 9.96 for white girls and 8.87 for Black girls).

What Paglia misses are all of the things that we need to learn about our bodies that are not related to how they function, but instead encompass how we live with and in them for the rest of our lives. Sure, puberty education is going to tell young people where to find the vas deferens and how narrow fallopian tubes really are, regardless of whether it’s taught by a sex educator or a biology teacher. But without fail the biggest question young people of all ages have is “Am I normal?” And when they ask this, they are not talking about the plumbing and wiring systems hidden under their skin and between their legs. As Monica Rodriguez, president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) told me, “Providing biological information without helping young people figure out their feelings and values related to body image, relationships, gender, and a whole host of other issues is so limited it loses much of its value.”

And yet, that what’s Paglia wants to continue doing when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). She suggests that this portion of a teen’s sex life be taught by the same health educators “who advise children about washing their hands to avoid colds.” We could certainly treat STDs like colds—“This is chlamydia, it’s caused by a bacteria, it can infect the urethra and cervix”—though even this approach would fall short if Paglia has her way, since she says that schools have “no business” listing sexual behaviors like masturbation or oral or anal sex. Just as it would be tough to tell kids how to avoid a cold without mentioning handshakes, so would teaching them to avoid syphilis without discussing intercourse.

More importantly though, STDs are not like colds, and avoiding them is not just about washing one’s hands or even using a condom. Avoiding STDs requires decision making, communication, and negotiation skills, as well as an understanding of trust, and the ability to recognize and sustain healthy relationships. While I have no doubt that many health educators could take this on, that’s clearly not what Paglia has in mind. She’s talking just the facts, ma’am.

Well, just the facts, with a little fear and shame mixed in. She writes:

The liberal response to conservatives’ demand for abstinence-only sex education has been to condemn the imposition of “fear and shame” on young people. But perhaps a bit more self-preserving fear and shame might be helpful in today’s hedonistic, media-saturated environment.

I can almost get behind the idea of a healthy dose of fear. In fact, I credit a healthy dose of fear of herpes—obtained from a first-hand account of a woman living with outbreaks that was published in Cosmopolitan circa 1987—with my lifelong devotion to condoms. And I believe that an honest accounting of STDs does breed a healthy apprehension. What doesn’t work is exaggerating the consequences and suggesting STDs are the inevitable product of premarital sex, which is what most abstinence-only programs do.

I draw a hard line when it comes to shame, however. This is something we should never want our children or young adults to experience in association with their sexuality. Activities that suggest sexually experienced teens are less worthy of our love, trust, or respect—by likening them to a mint that has been passed around the room, a petal-less rose, or a pitcher of spit—run counter to all efforts to promote sexual health. (See reviews of the abstinence-only programs that invented these shame-based activities on SIECUS’s Community Action Kit website.)

As Lucinda Holt, director of communications for Answer, pointed out, “At Answer’s teen website, we have seen over and over again that fear and shame do not serve young people. Fear and shame prevent young people from talking to their partners before they have sex about safer sex, whether they’re even ready for sex, sexual histories, and if they’ve been tested. Fear and shame prevent young people from getting tested for STDs or pregnancy. Fear and shame prevent young people from talking to their parents or other adults in their lives who care about them and want the best for them.”

SIECUS’s Monica Rodriguez adds that “today’s hedonistic, media-saturated environment” of which Paglia writes is exactly why we can’t rely on fear and shame: “I would argue that precisely because young people are growing up in a time where everything is sexualized we need to give them more information, not less and we need to help them practice looking at sexuality and the sexualized messages that they are getting with a critical eye.”

But Paglia does not want young people to be taught to use a critical eye in sexuality education. She seems to believe that there is too much liberal ideology in sex ed today, and some discussions are not appropriate:

The issue of homosexuality is a charged one. In my view, antibullying campaigns, however laudable, should not stray into political endorsement of homosexuality or gay rights causes. While students must be free to create gay-identified groups, the schools themselves should remain neutral and allow society to evolve on its own.

Acknowledging the existing of different sexual orientations is not political, nor is it an endorsement; it is an inarguable truth. Remaining neutral has meant ignoring sexual orientation—operating under the false assumption that all the students in the class, all of their parents, and everyone they know and will ever know are heterosexual. This is a political statement—one that dashes the hopes of some students for a happy, healthy relationship in the future, invalidates families, and perpetuates bullying.

Then there’s Paglia’s discussion of gender differences. Though she starts strong on this topic—suggesting young women should think about their future fertility and career aspirations at a young age—she quickly falls into stereotypes worthy of the most sexist abstinence-only programs. Women, she says, have far more to lose from casual sex and need to be taught that their fertility is fleeting while they are busy being “propelled along a career track devised for men.”

“Boys need lessons in basic ethics and moral reasoning about sex (for example, not taking advantage of intoxicated dates), while girls must learn to distinguish sexual compliance from popularity,” she writes.

“Where do I even begin?” said Monica Rodriguez. “Her attitude is so disrespectful of young people and promotes the very stereotypes that limit both girls and boys as they make their way in the world and in their romantic and sexual relationships. And, I would argue, that this attitude directly contributes to rape culture.”

What’s more, without giving any reason, Paglia suggests that schools should not distribute condoms, leaving that to hospitals and social service agencies. This is the opposite of what the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggested in a recent policy in which the group argues that all obstacles to condom access for teens should be removed and that schools are a good place for condom availability programs. The AAP came to this conclusion after reviewing a great deal of evidence that suggests condoms prevent both STDs and pregnancy, and making them available to teens does not increase sexual activity but does increase condom use. (Speaking of pregnancy prevention, Paglia derides current liberal sex education programs for defining pregnancy as “a pathology for which abortion is the cure.” Yet her model of sex ed does not seem to make room for teaching about contraception at all.)

All of the sex educators I spoke with agreed with Paglia on one (and only one) point: “A national conversation is urgently needed for curricular standardization and public transparency.”

Sexuality education will never be completely standardized, because local school districts are and will remain in charge of what gets taught, but nonetheless there is a movement to improve programs across the country. As Advocates for Youth President Debra Hauser said, “The National Sexuality Education Standards, published in January of 2012, provide schools with a guide to the minimum essential content and skills young people need at each grade level to take personal responsibility for their sexual health as they mature. Schools across the country have begun using the standards to improve the sexuality education they provide to their students.”

In fact, all of the groups I spoke with for this article—Advocates for Youth, Answer, and SIECUS—along with other experts in the field, have worked on these standards for many years.

But my guess is that Paglia is not going to like what they came up with, because the standards certainly don’t follow her guidelines of separating boys and girls, sticking to the facts, adding shame and stereotypes, and withholding information about sexual orientation. Instead, the standards offer a guide to creating a comprehensive sexuality education program that can help young people develop critical thinking skills to help them navigate sexuality throughout their lives.