U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bob Menendez are leading a coalition of pro-choice politicians in pledging to "crack down on false advertising" from pro-life pregnancy resource centers by limiting what they can say about abortion.
Warren and Menendez introduced a bill known as the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act that directs the Federal Trade Commission to issue rules prohibiting a "person from advertising with the use of misleading statements related to the provision of abortion services." It also gives the FTC power to issue hefty fines and sue pregnancy resource centers – also known as crisis pregnancy centers – in court.
Warren (D-Mass.) and Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced the bill alongside Democratic representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.).
"It's more important than ever to crack down on so-called 'crisis pregnancy centers' that mislead women about reproductive health care," Warren said. "I'm working in the Senate to stop these deceptive practices and ensure every American can access the abortion care they need."
With Roe gone, it’s more important than ever to crack down on so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" that mislead and deceive patients seeking abortion care. My bill with @SenatorMenendez would stop these harmful practices.https://t.co/kOoa9GWLyk— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 28, 2022
There are an estimated 2,500 pregnancy resource centers nationwide. Services vary, but they often offer pregnant women financial and material assistance in addition to counseling, pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and parenting classes. The services are free.
The bill claims crisis pregnancy centers "routinely engage in a variety of deceptive tactics," including "making false claims" about the risks of abortion. The centers "prevent people from accessing reproductive health care and intentionally delay access to time-sensitive abortion services," the bill says. It claims crisis pregnancy centers outnumbered abortion clinics three to one in 2020.
The bill allows the FTC to sue pro-life pregnancy centers in civil court. It also permits the FTC to seek civil penalties of up to 50 percent of the revenues earned during the preceding year by the "ultimate parent entity," not to exceed $100,000.
Pro-lifers, though, say the bill would prevent women from receiving the services they need. Care Net, a pro-life non-profit organization, says its 1,100 affiliates across North America provided more than $62 million in free services in 2018.
"Crisis pregnancy centers give women real choice, offering them resources to choose to continue their pregnancy," tweeted pro-life writer Bethany Mandel.
Crisis pregnancy centers give women real choice, offering them resources to choose to continue their pregnancy. https://t.co/Z4sTJatz3N— Bethany S. Mandel (@bethanyshondark) July 1, 2022
Daniel Darling, director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the bill "shameful."
"Pregnancy Centers are staffed by some of the best people in the country, serving women in crisis," Darling said. "This by Warren will only encourage the vandalism and attacks on PRC's."
Shameful. Pregnancy Centers are staffed by some of the best people in the country, serving women in crisis. This by Warren will only encourage the vandalism and attacks on PRC's. https://t.co/hZhjGEAlMQ— Daniel Darling (@dandarling) June 29, 2022
Actress Patricia Heaton also criticized the bill.
"Our medical pregnancy clinic serves client families for five years, providing superior services for anyone who asks," Heaton said. "We raised $250K for a mobile medical clinic for underserved areas, treating everyone. Because of people like @SenWarren, we now have to hire armed security."
Our medical pregnancy clinic serves client families for five years, providing superior services for anyone who asks. We raised $250K for a mobile medical clinic for underserved areas, treating everyone. Because of people like @SenWarren we now have to hire armed security. https://t.co/1cKPoeEU1I— Patricia Heaton (@PatriciaHeaton) June 29, 2022
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/David Becker/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.