Thursday, November 26, 2009

Crisis pregnancy centers and disclosure

Baltimore just passed a measure requiring crisis pregnancy centers to disclose that they do not “provide or make referral for abortion or birth-control services.” The rationale is that numerous women have been deceived about these things. I’ve been thinking a lot about required disclosures, and given the factual predicate, this strikes me as readily justified, even assuming for the sake of argument that the centers are engaged in noncommercial speech. Here’s Henry Waxman’s study on the topic of deceptive and false information at crisis pregnancy centers, and here’s NARAL’s.

It’s interesting, but unsurprising, to see the Maryland Right to Life legislative director characterize this measure as “condemn[ing]” crisis pregnancy centers: “‘Baltimore City has just said, “We recognize you do great work, but politically we're going to regulate you anyway.”’” Apparently they fear the accumulation of other regulations, which is at a minimum a position rich in irony. Are they worried that the council will specify the appropriate width of doorways or prescribe particular lawn care regimens? Opponents say that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander (see above re: irony), arguing that Planned Parenthood should also be required to post … something—I wasn’t clear on just what, given that Planned Parenthood provides comprehensive reproductive health services. Compared to various disclosure regulations on abortion providers requiring them to inform women that abortion is dangerous, I think an important difference is that no one disputes the factual predicate of the disclosure here.

My earlier discussion of bait-and-switch by crisis pregnancy centers is here.

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