Elected officials in Oakland, California are standing up for women’s health with a proposed ordinance that penalizes the dissemination of untrue or misleading information by crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).
Reproductive health advocates have long voiced concerns about the deceptive information that many CPCs often share with women in an effort to discourage them from choosing to have an abortion or use contraception. This new ordinance, which was discussed in a city council panel meeting last week, would impose penalties such as civil fines and mandate the correction of misleading information.
In October 2015, the California legislature passed the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency Act, which required CPCs to give out information about state-funded programs that provide reproductive health services, including abortion and contraception, to pregnant women seeking help. The law falls short of ensuring that the healthcare information CPCs disseminate is accurate, making this ordinance necessary. San Francisco became the first city to successfully pass an ordinance similar to the one Oakland is now considering.
According to a study conducted by NARAL Pro-Choice California in 2010, 85% of CPCs in California falsely advertised that abortion increases future risk for infertility and causes mental health problems. In addition, 60% claimed that condoms were ineffective in reducing STI transmission and preventing pregnancy, a claim for which there is no medical evidence. Though 69% claim to offer unbiased pregnancy counseling, abortion was almost never mentioned as an option; 60% discussed adoption at length and all of the CPCs advised parenting as the most beneficial option for women.
There were over 200 CPCs in California when the NARAL study was completed. The Oakland city council’s ordinance is an important step to ensuring that women have access to accurate healthcare information.