Rep. Maloney and Sen. Menendez Introduce Bill to Restrict Speech of Pro-Life Crisis Pregnancy Centers by Controlling Their Advertising

By Penny Starr | July 8, 2010 | 6:57 PM EDT

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) (Photo by Penny Starr/

( – Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) have reintroduced legislation to restrict the speech of pro-life crisis pregnancy centers by regulating the advertising they do.
The bill would direct the Federal Trade Commission to restrict advertising by the pregnancy resource centers, specifically ads that “create the impression that such person is a provider of abortion services if such person does not provide abortion services.”
But critics claim the “Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women’s Services Act,” first introduced in 2007, is itself deceptive and is designed to limit the access women have to organizations that provide alternatives to abortion, including adoption services and free parenting support, such as housing, job training, and parenting classes.
“This bill is not at all what it sounds like,” said Joe Young, vice president of Heartbeat International, an association of 1,100 pregnancy-help centers, maternity homes, non-profit adoption agencies, medical clinics and abortion recovery programs in 50 countries.
“Pregnancy centers are reducing the number of abortion sales, and this aggravates the abortion industry,” said Young.  “A more accurate name for this bill might be ‘Stop Alternatives to Abortion Advertising to Pay Back the Abortion Industry Act.’”
“Without any financial gain, Heartbeat International affiliates offer alternatives to abortion, providing the emotional support and practical help needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy,” Young said in a statement about the proposed law. “The pregnancy help movement is dedicated to protecting women, protecting maternal health and protecting child well-being.”
Heartbeat International affiliates provide information about all the options available to women who may be facing an unplanned pregnancy, including the risks associated with abortion free of charge. Many centers, including some of those not affiliated with Heartbeat International, inform new clients in the first stage of consultation that they do not provide (or refer for) abortion services. 
Some pro-abortion groups claim that billboards paid for by some centers that say “Pregnant? Need help?” are misleading, even though abortion is not mentioned on the billboards.
NARAL Pro-Choice America says that crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, “often mislead women into believing that they provide a full range of reproductive-health services. They do so by using questionable advertising tactics and providing dishonest or evasive answers when women call to inquire about their services.”
Many CPCs, according to NARAL, “continue to use deceptive and intimidating practices in order to prevent women from accessing the full range of reproductive-health options.”
Concerning the “Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services Act,” Maloney said in a press release, “Although I may disagree with their views, many crisis pregnancy centers are forthright and respectful. Unfortunately, some take a more underhanded approach to lure in women seeking abortions by using tactics that should be illegal.”
“An unintended pregnancy is an especially difficult time to encounter deception, and deceptive practices should be outlawed,” said Maloney. “Women shouldn’t have to face the added stress of deciphering whether or not the clinic they choose offers legitimate medical services.”
“This legislation would simply help ensure truth in advertising related to reproductive health services,” said Menendez in the same press release. “Women’s reproductive health choices are very personal decisions, and they should never be influenced by deception or pressure.”
NARAL and other pro-abortion groups back the Maloney-Menendez bill, which would make federal law a longtime campaign by NARAL and similar groups to discredit pregnancy resource centers and the work they do for women.
“We applaud Rep. Maloney and Sen. Menendez’s leadership in making sure women aren't misled about their health-care options,” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, is quoted as saying in Maloney’s press release on the legislation. “Many CPCs use deceptive and manipulative tactics that prevent women from making fully informed choices about their reproductive health. They put political propaganda before women’s well-being.”
“Regardless of one’s position on abortion, we all should agree that lying to women is wrong,” said Keenan. “Americans value honesty in advertising and these anti-choice operations should not be exempt from living up to this basic principle.”
The Web site of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America describes the pregnancy resource centers as “fake clinics.”
“Family planning clinics, like your local Planned Parenthood health center, have specially trained staff who can talk with you about all of your options,” the Web site says on its abortion portion of its Web site. “But beware of so-called ‘crisis pregnancy centers.’ These are fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion. They often don't give women all their options. They have a history of scaring women into not having abortions. Absolutely no one should pressure you or trick you into making a decision you're not comfortable with.”
Care Net, another network of pregnancy centers, said that the Maloney-Menendez bill was “just another attempt to shut down the competition.” 
“Care Net pregnancy centers are consistently and thoroughly trained on proper and effective advertising practices. Deception is simply inconsistent with our Christian principles of honesty and integrity,” said Care Net President Melinda Delahoyde.
“What's happening is that pregnancy centers have become an integral part of a community's support network for women and children,” Delahoyde said. “With such holistic support available, women are empowered to choose abortion alternatives and the abortion industry simply doesn't like losing business.”