Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a bill yesterday that would regulate the misleading advertising practices of Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). The Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act (see PDF) would require the Federal Trade Commission to create and enforce rules to prohibit CPCs' deceptive advertising practices, such as advertising under the term "abortion services." The act expressly defines abortion services to mean "providing surgical and non-surgical procedures to terminate a pregnancy, or providing referrals for such procedures."
Maloney first introduced the Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act in 2006. The current bill has 11 co-sponsors in the House. On the state and local levels, similar laws have been referred to as "truth in advertising laws."
According to a 2007 press release, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Henry Waxman (D-CA) conducted an investigation of CPCs in 2006. This investigation found that CPCs mislead their clients because those who sought counsel were told that abortions could lead to mental illness, breast cancer, and infertility.
"An unintended pregnancy is an especially difficult time to encounter deception, and deceptive practices should be outlawed. Women shouldn't have to face the added stress of deciphering whether or not the clinic they choose offers legitimate medical services," Maloney said yesterday in a press release.
Currently, there are an estimated 3,500 CPCs nationwide, most of which are affiliated with one or more national umbrella organizations. CPCs pose as legitimate health centers and offer "free" pregnancy tests. Some CPCs coerce and intimidate women out of considering abortion as an option, and prevent women from receiving neutral and comprehensive medical advice. These clinics are typically run by anti-abortion volunteers who are not licensed medical professionals.
Media Resources: Congresswoman Maloney Press Release 6/1/2007, 6/30/2010; Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women's Services Act; Feminist Daily Newswire 4/9/10