Anti-choice advocates in Oregon are bristling at potential new requirements that could force crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to obey directives written by state legislators. SB 490 would require CPCs to disclose publicly that they are not medical centers, that they will not offer or refer for abortions, and that they will not provide prescriptions for or accurate information about birth control. The bill is being derided by anti-choicers as an intrusive piece of government oversight, but t is relatively straightforward compared to many of the recent restrictions on abortion providers.
Among the issues that the abortion opponents find vexing is a requirement that CPCs provide truthful disclosures that they are not reproductive health-care clinics not just in signage that can be seen prior to entering the clinics, but on advertising, on their websites, and in other venues.
“SB 490 would require pregnancy centers to give disclosures not once, not twice, but up to five times for every client: on advertisements, on the center website, at the door, in the waiting room, and once more before she can receive services,” William Saunders and Kelsey Hazzard wrote recently at LifeNews.com. “SB 490 is full of vague language that will put pregnancy centers in constant fear of legal problems. Disclosures must be ‘conspicuous’ enough for regulators. And if the pregnancy center gets it wrong, there are fines of up to $10,000 a week!”
This hand-wringing is amusing in light of the abundance of anti-choice bills that actively script what medical professionals are and are not allowed to say, even if those scripts codify inaccurate medical information. “Informed consent” laws in Kansas, Texas, and South Dakota state that abortion can cause breast cancer, can lead to infertility, and may cause a patient to commit suicide, despite medical consensus showing that these statements are not true.
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Anti-choice advocates argue that no one should be allowed to tell crisis pregnancy centers what information they must include on their websites. Yet in Nebraska, anti-choice activists and lawmakers proposed a bill that would have required anyone who provides abortions to post links on their website to the Department of Health’s “informed consent” material, in the hopes of causing patients to change their minds about abortion.
Perhaps the biggest fear that CPC operators seem to have is the potential for fines if the law passes and they do not comply with it. If so, they would have good company. One of the more challenging aspects of being an abortion provider over the last few years is the stress associated with complying with new laws. In Wisconsin, for example, an unclear law requiring multiple face-to-face conversations and “coercion screening” has all but ended the practice of medication abortion in the state. This shows how onerous restrictions proposed by politicians without medical backgrounds can be. Of course, for doctors, not properly complying can mean not only the loss of a medical license, but a potential felony charge as well—not just a fine.
Crisis pregnancy centers in Oregon have it much easier. All they need to do is provide clear and upfront disclosures that they are not medical centers and they do not offer birth control or abortion. It’s that simple.