Crisis pregnancy centers in national spotlight

Supreme Court hears on California law that differs from county’s recently-adopted board of health regulation

From a press release:

The United States Supreme Court heard on Wednesday oral arguments in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, a case challenging the State of California’s law requiring certain disclosures be made by crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). CPCs are unregulated clinic-like operations that purport to provide information and advice to women who are pregnant. They are often staffed by volunteers and employees who lack medical training or licensure, and, research shows, have provided misleading, false and incomplete information to women regarding abortion and other reproductive health care issues.

Because CPCs can pose a risk to women’s health, often operate in a manner and provide some services one might expect from a medical clinic, and have been shown to mislead the public about the limited services they offer, last year the King County Board of Health took steps to inform visitors to CPCs about the limited nature of the services provided by CPCs. The Board adopted a Rule & Regulation requiring CPCs to post a notice on-site and in their advertising stating “This facility is not a health care facility.” There are at least eight CPCs operating in King County. To date, it appears none are complying with Board of Health Rule & Regulation.

“When we adopted the regulation last year, we paid close attention to the California law and the applicable cases reviewing it and other such laws around the country. We carefully tailored our regulation to ensure compliance with the Constitution while requiring notice to women seeking reproductive health services, at the time and location that they are seeking them, that such centers do not provide all the services one might need” said Board of Health Chair Rod Dembowski, prime sponsor of the legislation. “The Supreme Court should not prevent public health authorities from ensuring that pregnant women get complete, timely and accurate health information and are not misled by some of the deceptive tactics too often used by CPCs.”

The case before the Supreme Court involves California’s Reproductive FACT Act, which requires the centers to provide comprehensive reproductive health information to visitors, including information regarding abortion. The California FACT Act is broader than King County’s regulation.

“NARAL members supported this regulation because we knew these facilities were deceiving vulnerable women by posing as women’s health care centers,” said Tiffany Hankins, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. “These fake women’s health centers have one agenda: Preventing women from making informed choices about their pregnancies. If they want to continue to operate in King County, they must follow King County’s rules and be honest with the public about the true nature of what they provide. The fact that many of these centers are continuing to mislead consumers about what services they offer demonstrates precisely why this regulation was needed in the first place.”

“People who are facing an unintended pregnancy need accurate, timely information and health care, not delay and deception. Yet crisis pregnancy centers are built upon delaying and deceiving,” said Priya Walia, Legal Voice Staff Attorney. “These so-called “clinics” must be held accountable so pregnant people know what services they provide—or more importantly, the ones they don’t. Regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court case, we will support the King County Board of Health as they continue working to ensure that no one is denied access to health care by misinformation and deceptive practices.”

“Deciding what to do about an unplanned pregnancy can be complicated and it is made even more so by these fake clinics that seek to deceive and mislead women about abortion,” said Treasure Mackley, interim CEO at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii. “We all deserve the right to accurate, private information about our health care. We applaud King County for adopting regulations that will help shine a light on the deceptive and misleading practices of these fake women’s health centers.”

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