The Baltimore City Council recently voted 12-3 to make crisis pregnancy centers put up signs in English and Spanish saying they don’t provide abortion or birth control. Crisis pregnancy centers, as you may well know, have a habit of tricking women into thinking they provide full pregnancy counseling, when if fact they exist solely to coerce women into going through with their pregnancy.
In the end, the Baltimore city council’s vote protects consumers from false and misleading advertising. That’s a position governments often take, and there’s a whole branch of law, commercial speech, to explain why false advertising gets less First Amendment protection. The council decided to treat the crisis pregnancy centers differently than other groups because they’re pretending to be something they’re not (and then lying about the risks of abortion once they’ve gotten clients in the door).
If signs aren’t visible to inspectors, the center in question will have 10 days to put one up, while facing a $150 a day fine.
It’s a great step in the right direction. Though the centers can still tell women their usual lies, at least they can no longer pretend to offer women all their options. Women deserve to be told all of their options, and deserve to have the opportunity to make fully informed decisions about their bodies. Most importantly, they deserve to know what they’re getting into.
Let’s just hope Mayor Sheila Dixon signs it into law.