Federal Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong upheld most of a 2011 San Francisco law that prohibits the false advertising of anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. First Resort, a CPC based in San Francisco, sued the state of California in response to the truth in advertising law, alleged that the law is vague, is preempted by state law, and is a violation of their equal protection rights. Armstrong ruled that the law is not vague enough to be confusing and that it is not preempted by state law. She also ruled, however, that the law burdens First Resort’s “fundamental rights” to equal protection, thus requiring a strict scrutiny review of the law. Under strict scrutiny, a law can only be upheld in cases “where the law serves a compelling government interest.”
The law is aimed at “ensuring that indigent women facing unexpected pregnancies are not harmed by false or misleading advertising by certain providers of pregnancy-related services.” It applies to CPCs with limited services, such as First Resort, and others that do not provide abortion services and emergency contraception or referrals.
San Francisco was the first city in the nation to adopt a truth in advertising law for CPCs. Similar laws have been passed in Baltimore, Maryland; Montgomery County, Maryland; Austin, Texas; and New York, New York. All of these laws have been struck down as a result of legal challenges.
Media Resources: Jezebel 10/04/12; Courthouse News Service 10/03/12; Think Progress 10/05/12