For immediate release: July 19, 2016
Contact: Rebecca Griffin, email@example.com, 415.500.8123
Oakland, CA – On July 19, the Oakland City Council passed an ordinance that makes it illegal for so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to mislead consumers about the services they provide or about their status as medical clinics or objective health care counselors when in reality they are fronts for anti-abortion activists. This vote makes Oakland only the second city in the nation to proactively ban false advertising by CPCs. San Francisco passed a similar ordinance in 2011.
Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington, City Attorney Barbara Parker, and City Councilmembers Abel Guillen and Rebecca Kaplan co-sponsored the ordinance, named the Pregnancy Information Disclosure and Protection Ordinance.
“With the national news of the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s running mate selection in mind, we believe this cause is more important than ever. The VP-pick, Governor Mike Pence, is a well-known leader in the crusade against a woman’s right to choose. His joining the presidential ticket is a great threat to abortion access across the country,” said Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington. “Now more than ever, it is vital that we establish strong model legislation with clear boundaries around deceptive and misleading pro-life practices.”
“There’s no excuse for lying to women seeking time-sensitive health care,” said Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California. “Oakland has set an example for the rest of the state and the country by taking proactive steps to protect women’s health and hold crisis pregnancy centers accountable.”
In recent years, it has become common for anti-choice activists to establish facilities – often called “crisis pregnancy centers” or “limited services pregnancy centers” – as a ruse to counsel women against abortion instead of providing balanced counseling or medical services.
Some of these facilities are licensed to provide some medical services to pregnant women, and some openly acknowledge their anti-abortion mission. However, many are not licensed to provide medical treatment, and seek to mislead potential clients into believing that their facilities offer abortion services and unbiased counseling. This misleading of pregnant women seeking medical advice and/or care has the potential to be extremely harmful, as even slight delays can have serious impacts on a patient’s health care options.
Crisis pregnancy centers often purchase “pay per click” ads on online search services such as Google for terms such as “abortion,” so that women searching for abortion services will see a link and advertisement for the center at the top of the results page. Many crisis pregnancy centers advertise on billboards, bus stops, and the internet. Some use logos or names that are similar to legitimate health care providers, leading to confusion about the nature of their services.
The State of California recently recognized this problem and passed the Reproductive FACT Act. Proponents of the centers’ ability to mislead women seeking health care services have filed suit seeking the right to withhold information from clients.
The City of Oakland respects the right of crisis pregnancy centers to counsel against abortion if they are honest about the services they provide – as well as those they don’t provide. Under the proposed law, the centers will be prohibited from making false, misleading, and/or deceptive statements in order to confuse women who are seeking critical health care services. This law will give the City Attorney the power to sue violators and collect civil penalties and attorney’s fees, helping to put an end to these injustices against women.
NARAL Pro-Choice America and its network of state affiliates are dedicated to protecting and expanding reproductive freedom for all Americans. NARAL works to guarantee that every woman has the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices, including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and choosing legal abortion. In recognition of its work defending our constitutional right to choose, Fortune Magazine described NARAL as “one of the top 10 advocacy groups in America.”