City leaders in San Francisco have launched an attack on local pregnancy care centers, alleging that they engage in false advertising by leading women to believe they provide abortions at their clinics.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor Malia Cohen introduced legislation last week that would make it illegal for pregnancy care centers to advertise without a conspicuous explanation that they do not perform abortions.
Herrera called the centers “right-wing” and “politically motivated,” pointing to one in particular called First Resort, a facility that offers counseling on all available legal options, including abortion.
Herrera spokesman Matt Dorsey told the Redwood City Patch.com, “It is clear there is a complete disconnect from what the clinic is trying to bill itself as, and what its practices are. It’s an insidious practice.”
However, the reality differs. On the front page of First Resort’s website is a link clearly marked “services.” There, viewers will see a list of all that the center provides, and it’s clear that abortion isn’t available.
Nevertheless, Herrera’s legislation is co-sponsored by three city supervisors. He says it was spurred by something he recognized about First Resort in a Google search. First Resort’s alleged false advertising is “particularly egregious,” he asserts, because it shows up as the number one hit in Google searches for “San Francisco” and “abortion.” But using search engine optimization (SEO) or advertising for one’s website shouldn’t be grounds for challenging a basic freedom in civil society. As a Pajamas Media blogger put it, “What exactly is ‘First Resort’ accused of doing wrong? Buying a Google ad?”
First Resort and other pregnancy care centers have the right to exist and to refuse to offer abortions. San Francisco bureaucrats are struggling to accept those rights with these far-fetched allegations of advertising deception.
What the pregnancy centers do offer are options, resources, and support for women in need. Counseling services, prenatal care, parenting classes, and more are available to those who choose to access it, typically at little or no cost to them or to taxpayers.
A report by the Family Research Council two years ago documented many of the services pregnancy centers provide:
- Assisting an average of 5,500 Americans daily with sexuality- and pregnancy-related concerns;
- Offering parenting classes to new mothers through nearly 70 percent of centers nationwide;
- Providing medically referenced literature, reviewed by national-level experts, on prenatal/fetal development, risk avoidance/primary prevention of sexually transmitted infection and disease, and the physical and psychological risks of abortion;
- Providing live, 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-per-week accessibility to centers via Option Line, a national telephone hotline and web site that averages 20,000 contacts per month;
- Operating an international network of more than 60 centers in Canada, and another 40-plus countries worldwide from Romania, to Vietnam, to Zambia, and beyond;
- Relying on the engagement of more than 40,000 trained volunteers, including professional counselors and medical personnel.
Pregnancy centers are an important part of civil society because they offer yet another option for women in need: a place they can find information and receive help. These are the choices women deserve to have. These centers are also able to address problems without government assistance, which saves taxpayer dollars and removes their cause from partisan political currents.
Herrera said that “women’s reproductive rights are under assault,” but the truth is that pregnancy centers, with their many services and crucial follow-through, actually increase women’s reproductive options.
It is the freedom of these citizen-organized pregnancy centers that is under assault. Herrera and Cohen’s ideological attack threatens to hinder the freedom of private organizations and subject them to unnecessary regulations. Americans should celebrate pregnancy care centers for the invaluable services they offer to a society in need.