To a young woman facing an unplanned pregnancy and few health care options, the promise of a free pregnancy test and medical advice from a crisis pregnancy center sounds like a saving grace. Yet, in reality, many crisis pregnancy centers are not licensed medical facilities; they are not qualified to preform medical procedures and often use misinformation and scare tactics, such as linking contraception to disease and depression, in order to convince vulnerable women that the only reproductive choices available take place after a pregnancy is carried to term.
An investigative report by NARAL Pro-Choice California found that 91% of crisis pregnancy centers told women that abortion was linked to breast cancer, infertility, miscarriage or suicide. These centers often push resources for pre-natal care or adoption services, but refuse to inform women of alternate options such as contraception or abortion. Nor do they disclose to patients that their facility is unlicensed and therefore not subject to privacy-protection laws like doctors' offices or medical clinics.
AB 775, the Reproductive FACT Act, by Assembly member David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Assembly member Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), would compel crisis pregnancy centers to offer factual information about all options available to pregnant women and also to disclose if a facility is unlicensed.
Opponents of AB 775 claim it's a violation of these facilities' First Amendment rights, yet fail to acknowledge that these facilities are spreading damaging lies to vulnerable women. This bill is not about limiting free speech -- it is about empowering patients to make informed decisions about their health based on credible information.
Making a medical decision is already a complex process, but it is made much more difficult when the medical information at a patient's disposal is not reliable. The NARAL report found that 63% of centers gave investigators incorrect information about birth control and Plan B. In one instance, a clinic worker gave a woman an ultrasound and identified her intrauterine device (IUD), a contraceptive device, as a baby.
Speaking from the experience of running three women's healthcare clinics, I am appalled at the actions by these crisis pregnancy centers and I fully support efforts to end the spread of misinformation.
People have long struggled with incorrect information regarding sexual and reproductive healthcare; I remember one woman who did not want her pregnancy to go to term because she had herpes. Someone she knew claimed that if she had an outbreak, her baby would be affected. A doctor at our facility assured her she could carry the pregnancy to term without harming her baby. It's the job of these crisis centers and women's health centers to prevent the spread of misinformation and provide women with the facts so that they can make the best decisions for themselves.
The Reproductive FACT Act is about protecting the health and safety of pregnant women. It's not about trampling on religious beliefs. Every entity needs to be responsible for the information provided to their clients. We owe our citizens the right to health and public safety. We should never be afraid to provide factual, truthful information to the women and their families who need these services.
Every woman deserves the opportunity to make informed healthcare decisions, and no one else's beliefs should get in the way.