News Abortion

Anti-Choice Activists Angered That CPC Disclosure Law Would Require ‘Repetitive’ Statements

Robin Marty

Disclosure in every outlet in which they advertise, the potential for fines if they don't properly adhere to the law: in many ways, CPCs are being asked to behave like reproductive health-care clinics.

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.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

News Health Systems

The Crackdown on L.A.’s Fake Clinics Is Working

Nicole Knight

"Why did we take those steps? Because every day is a day where some number of women could potentially be misinformed about [their] reproductive options," Feuer said. "And therefore every day is a day that a woman's health could be jeopardized."

Three Los Angeles area fake clinics, which were warned last month they were breaking a new state reproductive transparency law, are now in compliance, the city attorney announced Thursday.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a press briefing that two of the fake clinics, also known as crisis pregnancy centers, began complying with the law after his office issued notices of violation last month. But it wasn’t until this week, when Feuer’s office threatened court action against the third facility, that it agreed to display the reproductive health information that the law requires.

“Why did we take those steps? Because every day is a day where some number of women could potentially be misinformed about [their] reproductive options,” Feuer said. “And therefore every day is a day that a woman’s health could be jeopardized.”

The facilities, two unlicensed and one licensed fake clinic, are Harbor Pregnancy Help CenterLos Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

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Feuer said the lawsuit could have carried fines of up to $2,500 each day the facility continued to break the law.

The Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act requires the state’s licensed pregnancy-related centers to display a brief statement with a number to call for access to free and low-cost birth control and abortion care. Unlicensed centers must disclose that they are not medical facilities.

Feuer’s office in May launched a campaign to crack down on violators of the law. His action marked a sharp contrast to some jurisdictions, which are reportedly taking a wait-and-see approach as fake clinics’ challenges to the law wind through the courts.

Federal and state courts have denied requests to temporarily block the law, although appeals are pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Some 25 fake clinics operate in Los Angeles County, according to a representative of NARAL Pro-Choice California, though firm numbers are hard to come by. Feuer initially issued notices to six Los Angeles area fake clinics in May. Following an investigation, his office warned three clinics last month that they’re breaking the law.

Those three clinics are now complying, Feuer told reporters Thursday. Feuer said his office is still determining whether another fake clinic, Avenues Pregnancy Clinic, is complying with the law.

Fake clinic owners and staffers have slammed the FACT Act, saying they’d rather shut down than refer clients to services they find “morally and ethically objectionable.”

“If you’re a pro-life organization, you’re offering free healthcare to women so the women have a choice other than abortion,” said Matt Bowman, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents several Los Angeles fake clinics fighting the law in court.

Asked why the clinics have agreed to comply, Bowman reiterated an earlier statement, saying the FACT Act violates his clients’ free speech rights. Forcing faith-based clinics to “communicate messages or promote ideas they disagree with, especially on life-and-death issues like abortion,” violates their “core beliefs,” Bowman said.

Reports of deceit by 91 percent of fake clinics surveyed by NARAL Pro-Choice California helped spur the passage of the FACT Act last October. Until recently, Googling “abortion clinic” might turn up results for a fake clinic that discourages abortion care.

“Put yourself in the position of a young woman who is going to one of these centers … and she comes into this center and she is less than fully informed … of what her choices are,” Feuer said Thursday. “In that state of mind, is she going to make the kind of choice that you’d want your loved one to make?

Rewire last month visited Lost Angeles area fake clinics that are abiding by the FACT Act. Claris Health in West Los Angeles includes the reproductive notice with patient intake forms, while Open Arms Pregnancy Center in the San Fernando Valley has posted the notice in the waiting room.

“To us, it’s a non-issue,” Debi Harvey, the center’s executive director, told Rewire. “We don’t provide abortion, we’re an abortion-alternative organization, we’re very clear on that. But we educate on all options.”

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