Washington Bill That Could Shut Down Pregnancy Centers Dies

State   Steven Ertelt   Mar 8, 2011   |   5:35PM    Olympia, WA

Legislation in Washington state that that threatened to shut down 56 pregnancy centers has died, much tot he appreciation of the head of the nation’s largest network of pregnancy centers.

The bill, HB 1366, was prompted by abortion advocacy groups that have launched a nationwide campaign against pregnancy centers that help women choose alternatives to abortion.  The bill expired when it was not brought up for a vote Monday in the full State House of Representatives. 

Melinda Delahoyde, the president of Care Net,  a national network of 1,130 pregnancy centers, celebrated the defeat of the legislation.

“Care Net commends the Washington State legislature for recognizing the truth about HB 1366 – that it was a biased attack by one industry on its competition,” Delahoyde said.  “Women in Washington deserve to make their own choice of where they go for help with an unexpected pregnancy.  This bill would have eliminated that choice and pointed them solely to abortion providers.”

“Washington state pregnancy centers have a strong record of service to the state, providing more than $18.6 million dollars worth of free services every year to women, children, and families. After two committee hearings and thousands of emails, phone calls, and meetings, legislators have now heard the positive truth about pregnancy centers directly from the community,” Delahoyde added.

Although Washington state is another victory for the pregnancy center movement, the battle is not over.

Despite the fact that a similar bill from Baltimore was declared unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court of Maryland, groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood are continuing to seek states and localities that will pass bills attacking pregnancy centers.

HB 1366 is significantly more onerous than the law in Baltimore. It requires them to post not only that they do not provide or refer for abortion, but that they do not provide medical care for pregnant women. That requirement would be particularly troublesome for the centers that are staffed by doctors and nurses that provide medical care to pregnant women.

The bill would have almost certainly required pro-life pregnancy centers to post a list of the services they do not provide. In addition, that requirement would have applied to counseling centers that do not provide or refer for abortion, as is the case in the current bill. As a result, all the regulations and the liabilities in this bill could have only been avoided simply by making the decision to provide or refer for abortions.

“The real stories of women whose lives were touched by the compassionate, caring work of pregnancy centers must be heard. If you’ve ever been helped by a pregnancy center, we ask you to share your story with others and help Care Net continue to counter the misinformation that is being spread,” Delahoyde said.

One of the most recent battles is in New York City, which passed a bill 39-9 that would place stringent limits on the advertising pregnancy centers use and require them to post signs designed to dissuade women from seeking their abortion alternatives services.