Now a California city is restricting pro-lifers’ freedom of speech by essentially banning advertisements from pro-life pregnancy centers. The Oakland City Council passed an ordinance last week to ban what it claims is “false advertising” by pro-life pregnancy centers, according to the Huffington Post.
NARAL, which also lobbied for the law forcing pregnancy centers to promote abortions, was behind the new ordinance. Amy Everitt, director of NARAL California, claimed the pro-life pregnancy centers’ billboards and online ads “trick women” into thinking that they do abortions. She claimed that pregnancy centers manipulate women into keeping their unborn babies or delay them from seeking abortions until it may be too late.
Everitt characterized the situation this way: “When you put an entity or organization in the way that’s specifically targeting them to deceive them into wasting their time and delay them from accessing other care [abortion], what that creates for the women and families of California is a public harm.”
Officials say some anti-abortion groups’ internet advertising and mass transit billboards are misleading, and intended to lure pregnant women in for counseling against abortion.
“We believe women who need care should not be lied to,” said Annie Campbell Washington, vice mayor of Oakland and a proponent of the ordinance.
Oakland officials are particularly concerned about search advertising. For example, typing “abortion services” into a Google or Yahoo search engine can bring up links to nearby crisis pregnancy centers that do not offer abortion.
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These pregnancy centers buy the search ads for terms like “abortion” or “pregnancy test” so links for their clinics will appear on users’ screens when they enter searches for those terms. Their websites often say they offer “abortion information” or “counseling for women seeking abortion.”
Fines range from $50 to $500 per violation, according to the report.
Brad Dacus, president of the legal group Pacific Justice Institute, which often represents pro-lifers, said the ordinance is bad law. He said the motivation behind it is to send more business to Planned Parenthood and other abortion groups.
“My fear is that abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood will succeed in achieving their end goal that women in crises will not receive compassionate counseling to alternatives and that more women will abort their unborn babies,” Dacus said.
“It’s also very presumptive to believe that those who use search terms such as ‘abortion’ are presumably seeking just an abortion,” Dacus continued. “They may also be open, and possibly yearning, for other options.”
In a statement, Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker claimed that the new ordinance does respect pro-lifer’s freedom of speech. But she also threatened to sue them if they do not follow the new ban.
“If their message is truly compelling, they should have no problem being honest about what they do and do not offer,” Parker said. “If they refuse to be honest, the City Attorney will have the power to sue violators to hold them accountable.”
Dacus did not say whether pro-lifers plan to challenge the Oakland ordinance. The legal group challenged a similar 2011 San Francisco ordinance that restricted pro-lifers’ freedom of speech, according to the report.
The ordinance reads like something out of an abortion activist’s handbook. Not only could the city penalize pro-life pregnancy centers with fines, but it also could force them to pay for “corrective advertising,” according to the ordinance.
Money appears to be at the root of the pro-abortion measure. The ordinance states that pro-life pregnancy centers may delay a woman in getting an abortion, resulting in higher costs for a later-term abortion. Because many abortions are paid for on the taxpayer’s dime in California, the ordinance states that the ad regulations are needed to prevent additional “cost to local taxpayers that can accrue from such a delay.”