For a woman who has discovered she is carrying an unwanted pregnancy, emotions are already running high. So taking advantage of that fact by pretending to be an office that offers abortion services or referrals for a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy, simply to get her inside to try and convince her that she needs to have the baby, is beyond cruel.
But that’s just what crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) across the country do every day. Many are set up next to, across the street from, or in the same building as clinics that provide abortions or referrals, and use similar sounding names to confuse women who may end up in the wrong place. Unlike clinics, which are subject to privacy laws and offer medically based facts, licensed practitioners and a full service of support, CPCs, many of which are Christian based, will tell you that abortion causes breast cancer and suicide, that you’re going to be a wonderful mother, or that your baby is too far along for an abortion. Should you be lucky enough to simply get away with a meeting and some minor discussion about why you should give birth and raise the child or put it up for adoption, if you ask for any referral for an actual abortion provider or birth control, you will be refused.
It was these deceptive practices that led various cities to propose laws stating that CPCs must place signs outside their buildings announcing what they actually are — centers that do not provide or refer for abortions or birth control. CPCs continue to fight the regulation, saying that forcing them to advertise what services they don’t offer constitutes limiting their “freedom of speech.”
Now, California is ready to enter the fray as well. The city of San Francisco is proposing their own law forbidding CPCs from “engaging in false or misleading advertising practices.” Failure to comply means fines and penalties.
For the pregnancy centers involved, they are proclaiming a clear violation of freedom of speech, stating that there is no record of them actually using misleading advertising practices.
But the internet begs to differ. Some centers have been buying up Google ads in order to be the top result when a person searches for “abortions in San Francisco.” The center says the practice isn’t deceptive, despite the fact that their ad reads that they provide “counseling and medical care to women who are making decisions about unplanned pregnancies.” By medical care, apparently, they are referring to pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. But that’s all.
So is accusing CPCs of false advertising really limiting free speech, or enacting truth in advertising laws? The legislation, should it pass, will likely end up in a court case that will ultimately provide us with an answer to that question.
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