Austin, TX Becomes Second City to Enact "Truth in Advertising" Law For CPCs
Austin's City Council approved "truth in advertising" for crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) Thursday, making the capital of Texas the second city in the US to enact the law. The ordinance states that "The Owner or Operator [of a CPC] shall prominently display, at the entrance of the Center, two black and white signs, one in English and one in Spanish, that state as follows: 'This center does not provide abortion or refer to abortion providers. This center does not provide or refer to providers of US Food and Drug Administration approved birth control drugs and medical devices.'" According to The Austin Chronicle, the bill was proposed by Council Member Bill Spelman and co-sponsored by Council Members Laura Morrison and Mike Martinez.
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.
According to The Statesman, Blake Rocap of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas told the council, "If a pregnant woman has decided that she's not going to have an abortion, then this sort of signage isn't going to dissuade her. This [ordinance] just asks the centers to be honest about the services they do and don't provide."
Violators of this law could face Class C misdemeanors handled by Municipal Court and fines of up to $450 per offense, Spelman told The Statesman.
A similar "truth in advertising" bill is being considered in Montgomery County, Maryland. Baltimore became the first city to enact such a law in January 2010. The city of Baltimore is currently being sued by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archbishop Edwin O'Brien said in the Baltimore Sun that the ordinance violates the CPCs' First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion, and it "is hurting the good people volunteering and giving so much of their resources to come to the help of pregnant women."
Media Resources: The Austin Chronicle 4/9/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 4/5/10, 12/8/09; Choice Campus Leadership Program: Campaign To Expose Fake Clinics Toolkit; The Statesman 4/8/10; Baltimore Sun 3/30/10