On Monday, Baltimore became the first city in the country to require crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post signs disclosing that they do not offer referrals for or information about abortion and contraception. The Limited Service Pregnancy Center Disclaimers Bill passed by a 12-3 vote of the Baltimore City Council and will now move to the the desk of Mayor Sheila Dixon. WBZ reports that the Mayor is expected to sign the bill, and that it will go into effect 30 days after receiving her signature.
There are an estimated 4,000 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 and counseling. Some CPCs coerce and intimidate women out of considering abortion as an option, and prevent women from receiving neutral and comprehensive medical advice. Many disseminate false information about both abortion and contraception, and they are typically run by anti-abortion volunteers who are not licensed medical professionals.
City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told the Baltimore Sun that the bill is a "step towards making sure that women have the information they need to make the right decision for their health and their future." Abortion rights activists celebrated the passage of the bill. "It's about time that we have truth in advertising regulations for these fake clinics which too often mislead women," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Attention now turns to Montgomery County, MD, where a similar "truth in advertising" bill is being considered.
Media Resources: The Baltimore Sun 11/24/2009; Feminist Majority Foundation; WJZ 11/24/2009; Interview with Eleanor Smeal 11/24/2009