City Council, Legislative Dems Are Trying to Regulate Right-Wing Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Will It Work This Time?

Megan Burbank

In September, the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to impose new regulations on emergency pregnancy centers, nonprofits similar to abortion clinics. It is often set up adjacent to a licensed health care provider, often with the goal of discouraging pregnant people from choosing abortion. Through deceptive practices and misinformation about abortion.

“Emergency Pregnancy Centers are rogue organizations masquerading as health care to persuade pregnant people not to access medically accurate and unbiased health care. Exactly when they need it most.” Council member Lisa Harbold said in a statement about the new policy. She said, “Seattle remains a safe place for abortion seekers, so critical pregnancy centers could proliferate here, making today’s vote so important to regulate false and harmful claims.” Become.”

Congress is also making new efforts to crack down on anti-abortion centers. Rep. Bandana Slatter (Democrat of Bellevue) and Sen. Manka Dingula (Democrat of Redmond) are working with Attorney General Bob Ferguson on a list of reproductive health policy proposals to be introduced in the next legislative session. and has advocated legislation to strengthen data privacy protections following the US Supreme Court ruling in . Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

A news release from the Attorney General’s Office lists critical pregnancy centers among the threats to privacy the law seeks to address, saying that when a pregnant visits a critical pregnancy center, it is considered a “crisis.” pregnancy center [person’s] Sensitive data can be provided to anti-abortion groups, who can then be targeted with pro-life messages and political ads. ”

Such policies reflect the renewed focus of lawmakers on preserving sexual and reproductive rights in Washington. Dobbs decision. But does it work?

The fraudulent practices of emergency pregnancy centers are well documented, but efforts to regulate them or make advertising more transparent have been unsuccessful. The same is true in states like Washington, where legal protections for reproductive health care are well established.

A state Senate bill introduced in 2011, the Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Accountability Act, required critical pregnancy centers to disclose that they did not provide abortion services or protect the privacy of their clients. The bill went to public hearings that year, but did not advance from the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee. Reports from the same period said the hearings delayed public testimony because of “inflammatory and life-promoting rhetoric” by Senate Republicans who spoke out against the bill. people who do not know(Full disclosure: I was an intern people who do not know attended that hearing in 2011).

Sara Ainsworth, senior legal and policy director at the reproductive justice law group If/When/How, remembers that hearing. Later, Ainsworth, who worked for women and her LGBTQ advocacy group, Legal Voice, testified in support of the bill. Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood recently released a report on emergency pregnancy centers across Washington. Through phone calls and visits, they discovered misinformation and a lack of transparency about the type of care the center actually provided.

“Many of them misled people into thinking they could get an abortion or an abortion referral as well as unbiased counseling,” said Ainsworth. I am just raising it.”

They are also uniquely difficult to regulate, she says. Or they are actually protected by religious freedom,” she said.

Consumer protection laws require truth in advertising, but critical pregnancy centers typically have the advantage of not making a financial profit from their services. “There is some case law that indicates that organizations that do not charge a fee for their services have defenses against the kinds of activities that might otherwise violate their laws,” he said. said. Filing a lawsuit against the Center may also raise privacy concerns for those who have directly experienced the Center’s deceptive practices. “It’s really, really hard for people who have been harmed by critical pregnancy centers to imagine themselves being the ones who openly stand up against them,” Ainsworth said. is intense.”

Legal challenges can also hamper efforts to hold the center accountable. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a network of Christian-related crisis pregnancy centers to disclose that centers that offer services such as ultrasounds without a medical license are not clinics. Void California law requiring.

And even if they succeed in establishing regulations for crisis pregnancy centers, local governments can struggle to enforce them. Passed an ordinance requiring consumers to disclose that But Ainsworth said the policy lacks enforceable funding.

Still, she says the new initiative could be successful. The law is familiar, but the political climate is different. Congress is less divided than it was in 2011, and reproductive rights have dominated the headlines ever since. Law vs Wade overturned. “Politics has changed in the sense that the need to protect abortion rights and protect access to abortion is much more recognized than before. Dobbsfrom people who are not normally in the fight,” she said.

Megan Burbank Seattle-based writer and editor. Before he became a full-time freelancer, he worked as an editor and reporter for the Portland Mercury and The Seattle Times. She specializes in corporate reporting on her policies for reproductive health, as well as articles on gender, political and cultural nexus.

📸 Featured Image: Senator Manka Dhingra speaks at a press conference following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. Photo attributed to Governor Jay Inslee on her Flickr (under Creative Commons, CC BY-ND 2.0 license).

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