May 26, 2016 — The Los Angeles city attorney's office on Monday said it will actively enforce a state law (AB 775) that aims to prevent antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) from spreading misinformation, the Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now" reports (Parvini, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/23).
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act into law in October 2015. It took effect Jan. 1. The law, which was introduced by Assembly members David Chiu (D) and Autumn Burke (D), expands protections in a 2011 San Francisco ordinance (212-11) that bars CPCs from disseminating misleading information.
The law requires licensed facilities that provide services related to pregnancy and family planning to let women know how and where they can access affordable and timely abortion, contraception and prenatal care services.
Further, the law requires unlicensed facilities that provide pregnancy- and family planning-related services to tell patients the facilities are not licensed and that they have no staff members who are licensed providers. Such facilities are required to disseminate a notice to patients at the facility and in any digital or print advertising materials stating, "This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services."
CPCs that do not comply with the law are subject to a $500 fine for the first offense and a $1,000 penalty for any offense thereafter. The state attorney general, county councils and city attorneys have the authority to enforce the law.
CPCs have filed five separate legal challenges against the state law. Judges have rejected CPCs' preliminary injunction requests in four of the challenges, while the fifth is still pending.
Investigation, lawmaker note violations
A recent investigation by KPCC found that six of eight antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in the Los Angeles area are allegedly violating the Reproductive FACT Act.
Jeanette Kuiphof, who runs two of the centers allegedly out of compliance with the law, said she has not complied with the state law because she has not yet been penalized (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/20).
Separately, Los Angeles City Councilmember Nury Martinez noted that residents have called her office with complaints about at least two CPCs in the San Fernando Valley. According to Martinez, one caller said she had never been informed that her possible choices included abortion care.
Martinez stated, "If a pregnancy center keeps information from a woman, or pressures her into making ill-informed decisions about her pregnancy, they are creating dangerous delays and roadblocks."
City attorney's announcement
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer on Monday said his office sent letters to six CPCs in the city after being notified that other CPCs in the state were urging women not to terminate their pregnancies. According to Feuer's office, the CPCs that received the letters are not necessarily violating the law. Rather, the letters are intended to notify the organizations of the law and outline the consequences of non-compliance ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/23).
Feuer's staff said he was investigating the issue prior to the release of the KPCC report. Citing the findings of the investigation, Feuer said, "Willfully flouting the law ... is completely unacceptable in the City of Los Angeles" (Plevin, KPCC, 5/23).
Feuer said his office will collaborate with the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs to ensure compliance, as "women need timely, accurate and complete information" regarding family planning ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/23). Specifically, Feuer said the two offices would follow up with CPCs to investigate whether they were obeying the law, and he urged women who visit such organizations to call his office if the CPCs provided incorrect or incomplete information (KPCC, 5/23).
Feuer acknowledged that some cities in the state are opting not to enforce the law until the lawsuits filed by CPCs reach a conclusion. "We're not going to wait," he said, adding, "Waiting for a day or a week or a month to enforce this law threatens the health and safety of women who during that time period may not be informed of their choices."
NARAL applauds effort
NARAL Pro-Choice California applauded the city attorney's actions to stand up to "anti-choice bullies that are using the courts to interfere with women's reproductive health choices." The organization urged other cities to follow suit.
Amy Everitt, state director for NARAL Pro-Choice California, said, "It is the law of the land." She added, "Violators who deliberately withhold that information should be held accountable" ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/23).