Pregnancy Center Disclosure Act

 

Summary: The Pregnancy Center Disclosure Act requires that unlicensed facilities which provide pregnancy-related services, such as Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), disclose that they are not licensed medical providers.

Policy Summary

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) present themselves as legitimate reproductive health clinics, but have the purpose of deceiving women seeking all-options medical care. CPCs commonly provide unlicensed counselors or volunteers whose main objective is to do whatever it takes to convince women to forego obtaining an abortion. Most of these CPCs are in business to misrepresent medical facts.

CPCs don’t need to be licensed and most are not. “CPCs are generally staffed by volunteers committed to Christian beliefs but who lack medical training,” explains an article in the Cardozo Law Review. Nevertheless, CPC staff and volunteers, sometimes dressed like doctors and nurses, counsel and serve women as if they were medical professionals. For example, when an investigator posing as a pregnant woman was given a sonogram by a CPC staff member, which is not unusual, the staff member identified the investigator’s IUD as her fetus.

There are about 2,500 Crisis Pregnancy Centers across the United States, and in some parts of the country, CPCs outnumber legitimate abortion clinics by far. For example, while 95 percent of Minnesota counties do not have an abortion provider, there are over 90 CPCs in the state; crisis pregnancy centers outnumber abortion providers by almost 15 to 1. In North Carolina, CPCs outnumber abortion providers by 4 to 1. Many CPCs are intentionally located near actual abortion providers, display misleading signage, and use false advertising to mislead women into believing the CPCs offer unbiased counseling and abortion services when, in fact, the opposite is true 

Women who seek health care or counseling during pregnancy require and deserve accurate information about these pregnancy-related facilities. That is why the state of California enacted legislation in 2015 to require unlicensed facilities that provide pregnancy-related services, such as Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), to disclose in both advertising and on signs at the facility that they are not licensed medical providers. A similar requirement was upheld by the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals.


Model Legislation

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE

This law shall be called the “Pregnancy Center Disclosure Act.”

Section 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE

(A) FINDINGS—The legislature finds that:

1)      Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are offices that purport to offer women comprehensive and unbiased reproductive health care information and services, but instead they attempt to prevent women from obtaining abortions.

2)      There are an estimated 2,500 Crisis Pregnancy Centers across the United States while there are only about 840 licensed clinics that perform abortions. In many states, CPCs far outnumber abortion clinics.

3)      Crisis Pregnancy Centers have a history of targeting vulnerable women with misleading ads, and providing them with false and medically inaccurate information about abortion, birth control, and a woman’s own health status.

4)      Crisis Pregnancy Centers rarely employ licensed medical practitioners; instead, unlicensed counselors or volunteers provide “services” to pregnant women, sometimes even performing medical tests which they are unqualified to provide.

5)      Women who seek health care or counseling during pregnancy require and deserve accurate information about these pregnancy-related facilities.

[Bill drafting note: Because of the sensitivity of First Amendment issues and the fact that abortion opponents often file suit over the First Amendment, the Findings should be carefully crafted to describe the problem in your own jurisdiction.]

(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to protect the health, safety and welfare of pregnant women.

SECTION 3. DISCLOSURE OF CRITICAL INFORMATION TO PREGNANT CLIENTS

After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:

(A) DEFINITIONS—In this section:

“Limited services pregnancy facility” means a facility that has a primary purpose of providing pregnancy-related services; the facility is not licensed by the state and does not have a licensed medical provider on staff or under contract who provides or directly supervises the provision of all of the services; and the facility satisfies two or more of the following:

a)      The facility offers obstetric ultrasounds, obstetric sonograms, or prenatal care to pregnant women.

b)      The facility offers pregnancy testing or pregnancy diagnosis.

c)      The facility advertises or solicits patrons with offers to provide prenatal sonography, pregnancy tests, or pregnancy options counseling.

d)      The facility has staff or volunteers who collect health information from clients.

e)      The facility has staff or volunteers who are not licensed nurses or physicians but who dress in clothing that is typical of nurses or physicians.

[Bill drafting note: States have different licensing schemes. Please work with local advocates to perfect the language about “not licensed” and “licensed medical provider.”]

(C) REQUIREMENTS FOR A LIMITED SERVICES PREGNANCY FACILITY

1)      Limited services pregnancy facilities shall disseminate to clients on site, and in any print and digital advertising materials including Internet websites, the following notice: “This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by [insert state] and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.”

[Bill drafting note: Because there are different state licensing schemes, please work with local advocates to perfect the language of the notice.]

2)      In any county where more than 10 percent of the overall population speaks a language other than English at home, as measured by the U.S. Census, the notice distributed on site shall also be provided in such other language(s). Where advertising materials are in a language other than English, this notice shall be provided in the same language.

3)      The onsite notice shall be a sign at least 11 inches by 17 inches and written in no less than 80-point type, and shall be posted conspicuously at the entrance of the facility and in at least one additional area where clients wait to receive services.

4)      The notice in advertising material shall be clear and conspicuous, meaning in larger point type than the surrounding text, or in contrasting type, font, or color to the surrounding text of the same size, or set off from the surrounding text of the same size by symbols or other marks that call attention to the language.

(D) ENFORCEMENT

1)      The Attorney General [and/or insert another official] shall bring an action to impose civil penalties against a limited services pregnancy facility that fails to comply with these requirements; such penalties shall be five hundred dollars ($500) for a first offense and five thousand dollars ($5,000) for each subsequent offense.

2)      Before bringing an action to impose civil penalties, the Attorney General [and/or insert another official] shall provide the facility with reasonable notice of noncompliance, which informs the facility that it is subject to a civil penalty if it does not correct the violation within thirty (30) days from the date the notice is sent, and the Attorney General shall verify that the violation was not corrected within thirty (30) days before imposing the penalties.

3)      A private party may bring a civil action for injunctive relief to enforce this section. In such case, the private party shall provide the limited services pregnancy facility notice of noncompliance by certified mail at least 30 days before filing suit. If the facility fails to correct the violation by the time the civil action is filed and the plaintiff prevails in the action, the plaintiff shall be entitled to recover attorney’s fees and costs.

SECTION 4. SEVERABILITY

The provisions of this Act shall be severable, and if any phrase, clause, sentence or provision is declared to be invalid or is preempted by federal law or regulation, the validity of the remainder of this Act shall not be affected.

SECTION 5. EFFECTIVE DATE

This Act shall take effect on XXXX 1, 2016.

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