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California city ordinance tries to stifle pregnancy center advertisements

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California’s abortion advocates just can’t get seem to get enough restrictions on free speech. Last fall, the state enacted a law requiring crisis pregnancy centers to provide information on how to get abortions, and now the Huffington Post’s Michael McLaughlin unquestioningly reports that the Oakland City Council has passed a new ordinance further regulating the advertising of CPCs—which he says are facilities that supposedly “try to fool prospective patients with advertisements falsely suggesting that they perform abortions.”

“Violators can be fined and sued by Oakland’s city attorney if they refuse to take down contested ads,” he writes. But the problem, as the rest of his report inadvertently makes clear, is that “contested” doesn’t necessarily mean false advertising; it potentially means any truths that are “inconvenient” to Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.

Some such clinics have used billboards and online ads to trick women into thinking that they perform abortions or offer other emergency contraceptive care, according to Amy Everitt, NARAL Pro-Choice California director. She said she’s troubled that searching Google for information about abortions in Oakland brings up results for nearby centers that don’t provide the service.

Who knew that journalism these days means “blindly taking NARAL’s word for it”? As I detailed last year in my comprehensive takedown of NARAL’s case against CPC “deception,” they don’t provide examples of ads that actually suggest CPCs provide abortions or contraception (they just arrogantly claim thinks like “pregnancy care” should be automatically assumed to include them), and Google’s algorithms for matching up search terms for results are largely beyond CPCs’ control.

The problem extends to websites that include inaccurate medical information about pregnancies, or that overstate the dangers of abortions and the morning-after pill. Oakland officials representing city council and the city attorney highlighted passages on OptionOnline.org, which refers women to crisis pregnancy centers in the Bay Area, as the kind of misleading medical advice that might run afoul of the law.

“Many pregnancies result in miscarriage so an abortion might not be necessary,” the website says. Another passage warns that the Plan B and emergency contraception pills “can actually hurt you if you take them while you are pregnant.”

I specifically exonerated CPCs on the risks of abortion and likelihood of miscarriage, too, providing the evidence that both can be just as high as they claim…and higher than the abortion industry will tell you.

As for the risks of emergency contraception, it’s impossible to truly evaluate this one without knowing exactly what sort of “hurt” was claimed (the website McLaughlin references doesn’t come up), but as Faith Kuzma and Eleanor Francis detailed for Live Action in 2013, it has been linked to increased incidence of breast cancer, heart disease, depression, and more.

Somebody is lying to women, but it’s not the crisis pregnancy centers.

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McLaughlin accidentally boils down the central problem by, just after writing that “violators can be fined and sued by Oakland’s city attorney if they refuse to take down contested ads,” providing the following example:

Support Circle, a licensed medical clinic with three sites in the Bay Area, including one in Oakland, is one facility that has relied on deceptive advertising to shade its anti-abortion stance, according to Oakland officials.

“Support Circle is a safe place where you can sort out your thoughts and feelings in a non-pressured environment, and make healthy, well-informed choices in line with your core values,” the clinic website says. The organization counsels against abortion.

“Clients can meet with medical professionals and receive information about early pregnancy symptoms, the morning after pill, abortion, the abortion pill, emergency contraception, Plan B, Ella, pregnancy and drugs, pregnancy and smoking, pregnancy and alcohol, and miscarriage,” the Support Circle website continues.

There you have it: all it takes to get dragged into court is offering “information about” abortion that isn’t accompanied by city officials’ preferred opinion of abortion.

Nobody—especially in California, for heaven’s sake—would infer that “information about smoking” necessarily includes help getting cigarettes, so it’s preposterous to hold “abortion information” to that inference so confidently that legal punishment is in order for not agreeing.

Laws to punish false advertising are legitimate, but only when tailored narrowly enough to only apply to clearly and demonstrably false claims. What abortion advocates want is something entirely different: using “false advertising” as a smokescreen to silence both obviously true advertising and reasonable dissenting speech on questions that have not yet been conclusively answered. Truth is not their goal: an uncontested monopoly for their own propaganda is.

They’re not for choices. They’re not for women knowing everything they can about all their options. They’re for abortion above all, and unconditional dominance over anyone who isn’t. Don’t think for a minute that if they thought they could get away with it, they would move to put crisis pregnancy centers out of business entirely.

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