San Francisco Considering Law Attacking Pregnancy Centers

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 8, 2011   |   11:51AM   |   San Francisco, CA

San Francisco is considered one of the most pro-abortion cities in the nation and the California town is setting out to prove that as a member of the city council is working up legislation targeting pregnancy centers helping women find abortion alternatives.

Supervisor Malia Cohen, is putting together an ordinance that would, if passed, require the pro-woman centers to disclose whether they are abortion alternatives agencies that, supposedly, don’t provide comprehensive health care. Cohen tells the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper that the centers are engaging in misleading counseling and advertising, though she doesn’t cite any examples to back up her claims.

“Legislation is a priority because there are clinics using misleading advertising tactics,” she said. “Women need and deserve to know the whole truth about their health care options.”

Cohen admitted to the newspaper, she is working with the California affiliate of NARAL, a national pro-abortion organization, to develop the legislation that would be similar to laws approved in New York City and Baltimore, Maryland and proposed in Austin, Texas. Those measures require pregnancy centers to post misleading signs claiming they are not legitimate medical centers and to tell women that they do not do abortions nor refer for them. City officials in those locations did not approve of corresponding legislation requiring abortion businesses to disclose they do not provide pregnancy resources or support.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera is helping Cohen with the legislation and he, too, made claims that pregnancy centers are supposedly misleading women in San Francisco — going as far as saying he is considering legal action against them.

“I think it’s egregious how they mislead the public,” Herrera told the Chronicle, though he also failed to provide any evidence to support his assertions.

The two city officials are basing their actions, according to the newspaper, on a report NARAL generated from visits to Alpha Pregnancy Center and First Resort. The major complaints centered on the scientific information the centers provided to women showing significant problems after an abortion — such as the link to breast cancer or mental health issues, both of which are supported by numerous peer-reviewed studies conducted by researchers and professionals.

NARAL also complained that Alpha was staffed solely by volunteers and is upset that women are allowed to sign forms showing they understand that Alpha is not a medically licensed facility.

First Resort spokeswoman Maria Martinez-Mont told the newspaper that its facilities are licensed by the state and staffed by nurses who can offer ultrasounds and legitimate medical care. Jim Boso, a retired physician who is the center’s medical executive director responded as well.

“It’s common knowledge that we don’t refer people to have an abortion,” Boso said. “Abortion is never the best answer, because it always takes the life of an innocent unborn child. We would like to make abortion unnecessary in the Bay Area.”

The law Baltimore approved attacking pregnancy centers there has already come under criticism and, in January, a federal judge struck down the measure after a lawsuit brought by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Under the law, a non-compliant pregnancy center may also be subject to a criminal misdemeanor charge under the law and, if convicted, the pregnancy center is subject to a fine of $200, plus $50 for each day the offense continues. The non-payment of fines could result in the pregnancy center being held in contempt of court.

Judge Garbis in Baltimore granted summary judgment finding the anti-pregnancy center law is viewpoint-based and impermissible to render constitutional under the First Amendment. He dismissed without prejudice all other claims and found a couple of the plaintiffs lacked standing (including the Archbishop and the Catholic church that provides space for one of the pregnancy centers that filed suit).

The city of Baltimore and officials with the pro-abortion legal group Center for Reproductive Rights appealed the judge’s decision but pro-life law firms have filed legal papers supporting it.

Matt Bowman of the Alliance Defense Fund says Judge Garbis’ ruling was a correct one.

“The judge ruled that the law’s attempt to burden speech unconstitutionally discriminated against noncommercial, unlicensed speech on the explicit basis that it came from a perspective disfavoring abortion,” he said, calling it a “monumental decision protecting free speech and women’s health.”

“Under the Ordinance, such an organization – referred to as a “limited-service pregnancy center” – must post a conspicuous sign in its waiting room notifying its clients that the center “does not provide or make referral for abortion or birth-control services,’” the judge wrote. “As discussed herein, the Court holds that the Ordinance violates the Freedom of Speech Clause of Article I of the Constitution of the United States and is unenforceable.”

“Whether a provider of pregnancy-related services is “pro-life” or “prochoice,” it is for the provider – not the Government – to decide when and how to discuss abortion and birth-control methods. The Government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, require a “pro-life” pregnancy-related service center to post a sign as would be required by the Ordinance,” Judge Garbis added.

The New York City law faces two lawsuits.

ACTION: Contact the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at and urge opposition tot he proposal to target pregnancy centers.