California lawmakers this week introduced a bill that would regulate the information anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) provide to clients, forcing some of them to offer resources on abortion services.
AB 775—the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act—is being backed by the groups Black Women for Wellness and NARAL Pro-Choice California, which in March published a report on the deceptive misinformation given by the state’s 167 CPCs to pregnant people seeking services.
CPCs in California, like those in the rest of the country, have the either explicit or unstated goal of preventing clients from obtaining abortions. To meet that aim, CPC workers regularly dole out misinformation about the procedure, telling pregnant people that an abortion would negatively affect their health and that they shouldn’t go through with the procedure because they will likely miscarry anyway.
The centers, which in many states receive government funds, attract people by disguising themselves as abortions clinics, advertising their services as unbiased counseling and buying up or leasing space near abortion clinics.
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Some cities in California have taken steps to curb the influence of CPCs. In San Francisco, anti-choice centers are prohibited from engaging in false or misleading advertising, and a judge can order the center to post notices saying that they do not offer abortion services or referrals.
The FACT Act, introduced by Democratic California Assemblymembers David Chiu and Autumn Burke, would require all licensed facilities in the state that “provide family planning and pregnancy-related services to inform patients about available assistance for affordable contraception, abortion, and prenatal care, including how to obtain that assistance,” according to NARAL Pro-Choice California.
The proposal would require facilities without medical licenses that offer similar services to post a notice saying they have neither a license nor licensed providers on staff. CPCs in California are a mix of licensed and unlicensed facilities.
“Thousands of women do not know the legal options they have, or the funding resources available to them,” said the American Nurses Association of California in a written statement during a Tuesday Health Committee hearing on the bill. “This bill will help ensure that pregnant women receive the information they need to make an informed decision.”
Also supporting the bill at Tuesday’s committee hearing were California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, the California Council of Churches IMPACT, and the California Primary Care Association.
Meanwhile, anti-choice groups in the state have begun a campaign against AB 775, calling it a “Bully Bill” on a newly created opposition website.
In a defense of CPCs during the Tuesday hearing, a California Right to Life Committee spokesperson compared the centers to car dealerships.
“What if they were to be seen as anti-environmental with misleading advertising, selling too many cars, and making citizens not anxious to take high speed rail?” the person asked. “Would it not be possible that the California High Speed Rail Authority require that car dealerships advertise High Speed Rail locations, schedules, and fees?”
The Health Committee approved AB 775 on Tuesday and referred it to the Judiciary. Both chambers of the California legislature are Democratic-dominated.
“The Reproductive FACT act is a piece of legislation that takes us one step closer to full reproductive freedom,” Janette Robinson Flint, executive director of Black Women for Wellness, said in a statement. “By ensuring women not only have access to reproductive health information free from coercion, and informing women of the full range of choices available to live healthy full lives regardless of race, income or geographic locations, we continue to actualize the ideas of reproductive justice.”