LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles attorney Mike Feuer on Thursday proposed a law banning maternity service centers from misleading people about reproductive health services, including abortion, using tactics such as false advertising.
The proposed ordinance, which Feuer sent to city council on Thursday, has not yet been approved by a councilor, but would take effect immediately if passed. It would be enforced by Feuer’s office, with fines of $10,000 per violation. It would also enable victims to claim damages if they believe they have been misled.
“In California and in the United States, it’s widely reported that there are centers that provide misinformation, misrepresent the services they actually provide once a woman comes to those locations,” Feuer said.
Feuer’s proposal is in response to the Supreme Court’s quashing of Roe v. Wade in June, which repealed the federal constitutional right to abortion that had been in effect for nearly five decades. He claimed that some so-called crisis maternity centers falsely advertise women who want abortions, especially those on low incomes and at a “highly stressful physical and emotional time in their lives.”
In June, California Attorney General Rob Bonta warned of the “limited and potentially misleading nature of the services provided by crisis maternity centers.”
“Crisis maternity centers often work to lure pregnant Californians into their facilities through vague claims about the information and services they offer,” Bonta said in a June statement. “While crisis maternity centers claim to provide comprehensive reproductive health care, their mission is to discourage people from accessing abortion care.”
There are at least five crisis maternity centers in Los Angeles, according to Feuer.
The centers may not provide abortion resources or referrals, Feuer said. They may not have the proper tests or diagnostics, or have unqualified personnel. They could pressure women not to terminate their pregnancies. Ultimately, they could prevent women from getting life-saving medical care, he said.
“These centers have the right to express their views,” Feuer said. “But they have no right to mislead women. They have no right to misrepresent the services they provide, leaving women who come to those centers with serious consequences.”
According to a UCLA study published in June, about 6,200 people are expected to travel to Los Angeles County for abortion care each year. The study was based on the likelihood that 26 states would ban nearly all abortions after the court’s decision.
The matter has previously been discussed by the city council, which received reports in 2016 from the Chief Legislative Analyst and the city attorney about the deceptive practices of crisis maternity centers and recommendations to reduce misleading advertising, following a motion by Nury Martinez, who is now a council member. president.
Martinez’s 2016 motion targeted maternity centers that keep clients away from abortion. She described such centers at the time as “often deceitful” and “harmful to women when they are most vulnerable.”
Feuer declined to say whether his proposed law — which bears some similarities to a San Francisco law passed in 2011 that bans false advertisements from maternity centers with limited services — was preventative.
“I can say that I want our office and our women here in Los Angeles to have every means possible to combat this misrepresentation, to prevent it from happening and to ensure that women are not adversely affected by it, ” he said.
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