Christian groups claim religious right to hide medical options from pregnant women
The East County Pregnancy Care Clinic is another crisis pregnancy center in southern California. Just east of San Diego in a working class neighborhood, the clinic advertises “free pregnancy testing” but like many other CPCs what they really offer is an anything-but-abortion service to women in need of health care and answers.
According to a report from the New York Times, the state of California is in a First Amendment legal battle with these facilities that are primarily operated or funded by religious institutions or ideological activists who fight a woman’s right to choose. The California legislature passed a bill recently that requires these facilities to post a notice that affordable abortion services and contraception are available from public programs with the phone number women can call.
Some of these facilities have been caught over the years deliberately distributing misinformation to women seeking care or counsel. They have come up with stories about everything from birth control secreting artificial hormones into your uterus, to a bogus underground fetus market, to false claims that abortions can increase the risk of breast cancer or lead to mental health issues.
Of the 170 to 200 CPCs in California, only 70 are officially licensed by the state, meaning they have nurses on staff and are under the purview of an actual doctor. So, putting a notice in their window is contrary to everything CPCs stand for and they’re fighting the new California law by refusing to comply.
“I don’t want to put up a sign telling you where you can go for an abortion,”Josh McClure, the executive director of the East County clinic told The New York Times. “The sign is not up here now because it’s unconstitutional.” McClure is just one of several plaintiffs fighting the law in court.
California is not the only one seeking to regulate the crisis pregnancy industry. In 2014, New York City passed a similar regulation that CPCs must post signs that advertise whether or not they have a licensed medical provider on staff. The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals kept that provision of the law in place but struck down parts of the law that required the CPCs to say up front that they didn’t provide abortions.
According to the New York Times, a First Amendment regulation is nearly impossible to uphold but statements of fact about licensed professionals on the premises, like the New York City law, have proven successful for regulating these clinics.