March 3, 2011 — The New York City Council on Wednesday voted 39-9 to approve a bill (Int. 371) that would require crisis pregnancy centers to disclose whether they provide abortions, contraception and prenatal care or to refer women to organizations that do provide such services, the Wall Street Journal reports. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he plans to sign the bill into law this month.
Council member Jessica Lappin, the bill's sponsor, said the measure "is about truth in advertising," adding that the "bill only regulates centers that are deceiving women and making them think that they are in a medical facility when they are not" (Saul, Wall Street Journal, 3/3).
Proponents of the bill, such as Planned Parenthood and the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the measure promotes consumer protection and truth in advertising. The centers have been criticized for deceiving women by giving the illusion that are licensed medical care facilities by offering ultrasounds and dressing staff in medical scrubs, for example (Harris, New York Times¸ 3/2). Although the centers may appear to offer abortion services, they actually are operated by antiabortion rights groups, supporters of the measure say.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, "Let me be clear -- in this legislation we are not targeting pregnancy centers in order to shut them down or interfere with any counseling that they want to provide. … We just want them to be honest and to say what their services are and not to deceive women" (Wall Street Journal, 3/3).
Opponents of the bill say it is unconstitutional and violates First Amendment rights, citing a similar Baltimore ordinance that recently was struck down by a federal judge. Chris Slattery, founder of Expectant Mother Care/EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers, said he plans to challenge the law as soon as Bloomberg signs the legislation (New York Times, 3/2).