The Court will hear arguments today in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Beccera, which concerns the constitutionality of California’s FACT Act. That law requires crisis pregnancy centers—faith-based entities that dissuade women from obtaining abortions—to advertise the fact that they do not provide certain reproductive services. As NPR explains:
The FACT Act requires unlicensed crisis pregnancy centers to post a sign or otherwise disclose to their clients in writing that the center is not a licensed medical facility and has no licensed medical provider who supervises the provision of services. The disclosure requirement extends to advertising, which anti-abortion pregnancy centers object to as an attempt to “drown out” their message.
CPCs have argued that the law violates their freedom of speech, though they have yet to persuade a court of their claim. However, CPCs frequently practice false advertising: They adopt names that resemble the names of nearby abortion providers and they generally don’t advertise the fact that they do not provide abortion services. Most don’t even provide comprehensive prenatal care.
But Google “abortion,” and you’ll likely get a list of CPCs. A 2o14 NARAL investigation found that in 25 major cities, searching “abortion” routinely resulted in at least one ad for a crisis pregnancy center. The ads were so egregious that Google removed a number of them, as The Washington Post reported at the time.
Turn up at a CPC, and you’ll typically hear more misinformation. An NPR investigation confirmed:
Annie Filkowski went to a clinic because it advertised free pregnancy tests. She spent hours there before learning she was not pregnant, and when she then asked a counselor to write her a birth control prescription or give her advice on which method to use, she said the counselor told her, “Birth control causes infertility and can give you cancer” and other “crazy” things.
This isn’t uncommon. CPC staffers have been caught on tape lying to clients about the medical risks of contraception and abortion. In states that enforce strict restrictions on abortion, CPCs can stall a woman until she’s out of time to legally terminate her pregnancy. Regulating their commercial speech doesn’t violate their First Amendment rights; it simply ensures truth in advertising, and in turn ensures that women can actually exercise their legal right to abortion.