A blow was struck against "crisis pregnancy centers" this week when a New York City judge ruled that they must disclose to clients whether they have medical personnel on staff. However, the court also ruled that forcing a crisis pregnancy center to say that it does not perform abortions would "impermissibly compel speech." The ruling came on the heels of another abortion ruling in North Carolina, which determined that doctors cannot be compelled to describe the contents of an ultrasound to patients desiring an abortion.
These centers market themselves to women experiencing unplanned pregnancy who are considering their options. Advertising often makes them appear as nonpartisan counseling centers that will walk clients through all possible options. But once a client comes in, the truth comes out: unlike abortion clinics, crisis pregnancy centers are run by anti-abortion groups. Counselors make every attempt to dissuade women from ending their pregnancies by telling them that the operation is extremely dangerous and that women always regret getting an abortion, among other lies. Scarily, these non-abortion centers can often get state funding.
The recent ruling actually stems from a law passed in New York City in 2011. That law required crisis pregnancy centers not only to tell clients they had no doctors on staff but also to clarify that they did not offer abortions or abortion referrals. The law also required the centers to tell clients that the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recommends all pregnant women see a licensed healthcare provider.
The crisis centers didn't take it well. Soon after the law was passed, three such organizations banded together and took the legislation to court, arguing that it violated their freedoms of speech and religion. When a federal judge agreed to strike down the law, the city appealed. Although the part of the law regarding medical doctors was upheld, the other components of the law didn't fly. Now the whole thing will revert back to a lower court to be battled over once again.