Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon signed a bill that requires crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post signs disclosing that they do not offer referrals for or information about abortion and contraception. Dixon’s approval of the measure makes Baltimore the first city in the US to have “truth in advertising” legislation. In November the bill was approved by the Baltimore City Council on a 12-3 vote. The measure will go into effect in January 2010.
Keiren Havens, Vice President for External Relations at Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said in a press release, “I am pleased that the City Council studied the evidence and was concerned about the health and well-being of the women of Baltimore. Women will read this disclaimer and then decide whether they want to stay or whether they would rather go to a trusted healthcare provider.” She continued, “this commonsense bill fits with [the mayor’s] on-going efforts to reduce teen pregnancy and ensure women’s access to birth control.”
There are an estimated 4,000 CPCs nationwide, most of which are affiliated with one or more national umbrella organizations. CPCs pose as legitimate health centers and offer “free” pregnancy tests and counseling. Some CPCs coerce and intimidate women out of considering abortion as an option, and prevent women from receiving neutral and comprehensive medical advice. Many disseminate false information about both abortion and contraception, and they are typically run by anti-abortion volunteers who are not licensed medical professionals.
A similar “truth in advertising” bill is being considered in Montgomery County, Maryland.