Baltimore Finds A Common Sense Solution to Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Imagine a
friend of yours, a pregnant woman, walks into an office seeking information
about her pregnancy. Only, it’s not a doctor’s office and they’re not going to
tell her the truth.  Unfortunately,
this happens every day across the United States.

Everyone can
agree that women seeking information about pregnancy, birth control, abortion,
or sexually transmitted diseases should receive timely and accurate
information, not false political propaganda.  But there are facilities out there that spread
misinformation about abortion and birth control in an effort to dissuade women
from exploring those options.   These are known as limited service
pregnancy centers or crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

In Baltimore
and around the country, many facilities have neutral sounding names like
“Center for Pregnancy Concerns.”  Sounds like a place you could get
information or services for your pregnancy concerns, right?  Wrong. 
Volunteers who visited these centers were told falsehoods like abortion
increases your risk of breast cancer, that natural family planning is as
effective as the pill, and that condoms do not protect against sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs).  CPCs
are concerned alright, but not about what’s in the best interest of women’s
health.  They’re concerned with preventing
women from exploring their full range of options to protect against unplanned
pregnancy and STDs.

CPCs do not
always disclose information about the limitations of services or their
anti-choice agendas in their advertising, particularly their beliefs about
birth control.  Low-cost birth control has been proven to be the most
effective way to decrease the need for abortion, yet CPCs give false
information about the safety and effectiveness of contraceptives.  Moreover, not a single CPC in Baltimore
City contacted by NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Fund volunteers would provide a
referral for comprehensive birth control.

That’s why
this week Baltimore City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake introduced
the Limited-Service Pregnancy Centers Disclaimer Bill.  Co-sponsored by ten other council
members, this bill is a common sense measure that
will ensure that women visiting a Baltimore CPC are informed that they will not
receive comprehensive birth control or abortion services or referrals. 
The measure does not ask CPCs to provide services they find objectionable. 
It only asks them to be honest and straightforward with the women, so that they
know up front whether the facility will suit their needs.  Having a more
complete picture about the services that are and are not offered will also help
provide a context for information they do receive.   The goal of this
bill is to empower women to make decisions about their care, and decide if a
so-called “Center for Pregnancy Concern” is, well, concerned about the same
things as they are.

This bill is
an exciting step in Maryland. 
Although Maryland introduced a statewide bill to regulate CPCs in 2008,
the bill, like all pro-choice bills in the last eleven years in our state, did
not move forward.  But localities
around the country have been enacting laws and policies to strengthen the
reproductive rights of women.  For
example, Pittsburgh enacted a buffer zone protecting patients entering
reproductive health care facilities. 
And Madison, Wisconsin created an ordinance requiring pharmacies to let
customers know when emergency contraception is not available.

Pro-Choice Maryland
and Planned Parenthood of Maryland are committed to
ensuring that every woman has the best medical care possible – from birth
control to prenatal vitamins, from pre-conception care to labor and
delivery.  We have no objection to a center that offers women who have
decided to carry their pregnancies to term any help they like.  But lines
are crossed when a CPC is not up front about their services, or when a center misleads

The Limited
Service Pregnancy Centers Disclaimers Bill simply asks that Baltimore CPCs
disclose what is true – that they do not provide or refer for comprehensive
birth control services or abortion so that women know up front whether the
facility suits their needs.   We believe this bill to be a common
sense approach to a goal we all share – getting women the care they need. 

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  • harry834

    This law is good. It doesn’t require the CPCs to provide or refer any service, but it says upfront that they do not provide abortions/birth control. This is good.

  • kate-ranieri

    This is wonderful for Baltimore. It would be fabulous if this could be law in all cities. The amount of misleading and false information is really a detriment to women. Sadly, even at real abortion centers, protesters hand out pamphlets that mislead or distort.

  • marysia

    I wish prochoicers would not tar all CPCs with the same brush. They need to be examined on a case by case basis.

    Some are ethically run & up front about such important matters as the fact that they do not provide or refer for abortions. It’s been a while, but as a social worker I volunteered or worked at/for several prolife pregnancy agencies, & honesty was considered the best policy at all of them. Lying to clients was deemed a large no-no.

    Yes, many CPCs do not provide contraceptives or comprehensive sex education, & I consider that a very deep problem. But for women who have already conceived, some CPCs are very helpful. I have seen it with my own eyes, I have personally been part of the solution not the problem..

    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • jodi-jacobson

    Then there should be no problem in complying with the law.

    I think your comment is somewhat misplaced. If an organization makes clear to women entering that it does not provide comprehensive medical- or evidence-based services, and does not refer for contraception or abortion, then it is already doing what the law seeks to require.
    This law would apply to those that are not doing the same.

    Please read the article carefully. No center contacted in Baltimore either referred for or provided even contraceptive methods. These centers have an ideological, not a public health nor a personal medical health approach. They should be transparent; those that are already transparent have no issue.
    They should not, however, be receiving state, local or federal tax funds.

    If you are a clinic specializing in risk of stroke and heart disease and you refuse to do blood pressure checks or perform EKGs, you’d have a problem being seen as legitimate or getting federal funding. This situation is no different.
    All that is being sought is transparency by so-called clinics where none exists. I am not clear on the problem with that.

    Best wishes, Jodi

  • juliesunday

    this is the best thing to come out of baltimore since john waters. this is great news and an important first step to getting these rackets put out of business. if they spent less money on deceptive billboards (Pregnant? Scared? No? [Want us to scare you?]) they would have more resources to devote to the women who really do want to carry pregnancies to term with services they need, like housing, prenatal care, and referrals to social services.

  • crowepps

    People might be more likely to consider CPCs on a case by case basis when Planned Parenthood Clinics are considered on a case by case basis – so that, for instance, women going into to a clinic that performs only prenatal care, PAP smears and evaluations for breast exams don’t have to look at grisly photos of fetuses.

  • grayduck

    This law would be a clear violation of the First Amendment.


  • everysaturdaymorning

    No more so than state mandated scripts pretending to be informed consent.

  • grayduck

    "No more so than state mandated scripts pretending to be informed consent."


    Planned Parenthood is trying to make that argument regarding the South Dakota informed consent law- except for the insinuation that the law requires the reading of a "script," which it does not.


    However, the courts disagree with Planned Parenthood. The Supreme Court has held that "…a requirement that a doctor give a woman certain information as part of obtaining her consent to an abortion is, for constitutional purposes, no different from a requirement that a doctor give certain specific information about any medical procedure" and "We see no constitutional infirmity in the requirement that the physician provide the information mandated by the State here."



    The courts have also held that "Planned Parenthood’s evidence at the preliminary injunction stage does not establish a likelihood of proving that…the disclosure required by § 7(1)(b) is anything but truthful, non-misleading and relevant to the patient’s decision to have an abortion, and thus ‘part of the practice of medicine, subject to reasonable licensing and regulation by the State.’"



    Conversely, the Baltimore proposal is not "…narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest." The centers do not perform medical procedures, so the disclosures cannot be considered informed consent to medical procedures. Instead, the intent and effect of the law would be to promote the political position that all organizations serving pregnant women should provide, or refer for, abortion. "[W]here the State’s interest is to disseminate an ideology, no matter how acceptable to some, such interest cannot outweigh an individual’s First Amendment right to avoid becoming the courier for such message."



  • grayduck

    "Low-cost birth control has been proven to be the most effective way to decrease the need for abortion…"


    How was that conclusion derived?