Wall Street Journal: Bill Brings Out Foes on Abortion
By Sumathi Reddy
November 17, 2010
A contentious bill that would require about two-dozen so-called crisis pregnancy centers to disclose that they don't offer abortions drew more than 50 abortion supporters and opponents to a City Council committee meeting Tuesday.
Members of the Committee on Women's issues on Tuesday weren't expected to vote on the bill, which has the support of Speaker Christine Quinn and the Bloomberg administration.
The bill would require such centers to post signs in their offices and on their websites and in advertising stating that they do not offer abortions or contraception. It would also require the centers to disclose if they don't have any licensed medical staff and to treat all information provided by clients as confidential. The centers are currently not licensed or regulated by any state or city agencies, officials testified.
"This is about truth in advertising and women's health," said Council Member Jessica Lappin, the bill's primary sponsor. "There are two dozen anti-choice centers masquerading as health clinics right here in New York City….Rather than provide full and accurate medical information to women they mislead and manipulate them."
But abortion opponents defended the centers as providing legitimate counseling and an alternative for women who don't want to have an abortion. They called the proposal a violation of First Amendment rights and threatened legal action if it passes.
Chris Slattery, president of Expectant Mother Care Frontline Pregnancy Centers, which operates 12 centers, said some of its centers have medical affiliations and licensed staff. He acknowledged that not all of them do and that licensed staff isn't always on the premises. "We can document thousands of experiences, negative, at abortion clinics in New York," he testified.
Abortion supporters pointed to anecdotal evidence in which they found crisis-pregnancy center employees trying to lure customers away from their centers and giving clients false and misleading information.
"Unfortunately when a woman enters a crisis pregnancy center…she is confronted with bias counseling, anti-abortion propaganda and deception," said Kelli Conlin, president of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, which conducted an undercover investigation of the centers starting in 2009. She added that her group "believes that the dishonest practices of CPC's must be exposed and stopped."
Council Member Daniel Halloran raised questions about the city government telling a group that it must disclose what it doesn't provide suggesting that Planned Parenthood should change its name to indicate that it also plans for nonparenthood.
"I am very concerned that if the government can step in here it can step in other places and do exactly the same thing," he said.