Reproductive Freedom

Democrats Want to Force Religious Pregnancy Centers in California to Offer Abortion Info

Some crisis pregnancy centers are shady. But the point should be making them be honest about what they are, not trying to turn them into something they're not.

|


Barberton Community Foundation

Democrats wouldn't take kindly to a bill requiring abortion clinics post info about adoption or the joys of motherhood. In fact, liberals (and libertarians) have objected, quite rightly, to state rules compelling abortion doctors to read pro-life statements, advise women about "abortion reversals," or narrate ultrasounds. Yet, in California, Democrats want to require Christian pregnancy-counseling centers to offer info about abortion. 

More details from the Huffington Post: 

The California Assembly passed legislation Tuesday that would require faith-motivated crisis pregnancy centers to provide comprehensive information about reproductive health care options, including abortion.

The bill, known as the Reproductive Fact Act, would require pregnancy centers to post notices saying that reproductive health services, including abortion, are available to pregnant women in the state. Pregnancy centers also would have to disclose whether they lack a medical license. The bill passed on a party-line vote, with Republicans objecting on the grounds that it would unconstitutionally compel government speech for the state's 167 centers.

The Republicans are probably right, at least in part. Last November, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a similar statute in New York, allowing the requirement that these centers disclose whether a licensed medical provider works there but rejecting the state's attempt to compel centers to provide referrals for abortion clinics or emergency contraception. In December, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a North Carolina law requiring physicians to narrate an ultrasound to women seeking an abortion. A San Francisco statute requiring pregnancy center ads not to misleadingly imply that they offer abortion services or referrals was allowed to stand by a federal court. Legally, there's a pretty clear line between requiring transparency or truth in advertising and compelling speech.   

(I'll never understand why both Democrats and Republicans seem to think that carrying out their preferences willy-nilly with state force won't backfire when they inevitably lose power. A legislature powerful enough to compel faith-based counselors to offer abortion info is a legislature powerful enough to compel abortion clinics to urge women to "choose life.")

To be clear, some crisis pregnancy centers can be shady. They have been known to misleadingly portray themselves as full-service women's health clinics, or to obscure religious affiliations. They may offer discredited info on things like "the link between abortion and depression," or engage in what some describe as bullying or pressuring women into carrying pregnancies to term.

But the state really shouldn't be in the business of deciding what completely non-criminal information a private operation may make available. And many businesses and non-profits have owners with religious beliefs that they don't necessarily broadcast. In other words, you may condemn these pregnancy centers' tactics or views, but they're not de facto doing anything illegal. What's more, they may doing some good: Despite not offering contraception or abortion advice, the centers do offer things like free pregnancy tests, screenings for sexually transmitted infections, ultrasounds, and baby clothes.

If particular centers are engaging in deceptive or fraudulent practices, then by all means, go after them for that. But the point should be making them be honest about what they are, not trying to turn them into something they're not.