House Democrats reintroduced a bill last week that would prohibit so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) from falsely advertising that they provide abortion services.
The Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services Act, introduced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) on July 29, would direct the Federal Trade Commission to create rules against deceptive advertising of abortion services, and let the FTC investigate reports of misleading CPC advertisements just like any other consumer product or service.
The bill has 13 co-sponsors, all Democrats. It has been introduced in previous sessions of Congress, and the Senate version usually sponsored by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has not yet been reintroduced.
Crisis pregnancy centers are anti-choice facilities that try to persuade women not to get abortions. They may offer free ultrasounds or pregnancy tests, but often no other medical services.
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CPC “counseling” often includes overtly misleading information about abortion, including anti-choice myths that abortion causes breast cancer or sterility. CPCs routinely use deceptive advertising, especially online, to suggest that women facing an unplanned pregnancy might be able to get abortion services there.
At least some deceptive ads have already been removed from search engines like Google at the urging of pro-choice advocates.
“These centers mislead women by claiming to provide comprehensive services—they target women and push an agenda rather than provide them with the health care support they need,” Bonamici said in a statement.
A report on crisis pregnancy centers conducted by NARAL Pro-Choice America found that a CPC’s “ideal client” is a woman facing an unintended pregnancy who doesn’t have regular health-care access, but who may be turned off by a provider that doesn’t offer abortion services.
“CPCs recognize that if they are up front about the limited nature of their services and their ideological agenda, they will lose this constituency,” the report said.
The report found that CPC employees often give evasive answers on the phone in order to “lure” women into making an appointment and avoid admitting that they do not provide comprehensive reproductive health services.
“Whether they’re selectively editing surreptitiously recorded videos as in the latest attacks on Planned Parenthood, or using false advertising to mislead women, the anti-choice movement often relies on deception,” Maloney said. “Too often this agenda is pursued at the expense of women’s healthcare.”