In a ground-breaking bill passed by the New York City Council, crisis pregnancy centers will be required to disclose whether or not they provide abortion services. The bill is targeted at those clinics run by anti-abortion groups who use the facilities to attempt to convince women not to terminate their pregnancies. They will now have to make clear whether they are actually abortion clinics. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign the bill into law.
Pro-choice advocates have called the bill a consumer protection measure. “There are people out there presenting themselves as medical offices, deceiving women, giving misinformation,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The centers often operate by opening near abortion clinics and pretending to provide referrals, while using propaganda to convince women that having abortion is an unhealthy or immoral choice. The legislation also ensures that women who visit clinics will have their information remain private, a basic freedom that is sometimes violated.
The fate of the bill may, however, be uncertain; a similar ordinance enacted in Baltimore was declared unconstitutional in January. A court challenge is expected from opponents who say that the bill inhibits free speech.
Chris Slattery, the president of EMC Frontline Pregnancy Centers, which operates 12 crisis pregnancy centers in New York City, said that the women who seek help in his centers are not deceived. He says that his group protects women from what they call the “Abortion Capital of America.”
The government should not, however, endorse these groups’ right to intimidate women with impunity. They can continue to function under this law, but must be clear with women that they do not offer abortion services, so that women are aware, when they walk in, that they may experience pro-life rhetoric. This will save countless women stress and trauma when making a decision that should be theirs, and theirs alone.
Photo from Flickr.