The City of Oakland has enacted an ordinance threatening pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) with legal action if they engage in “false, misleading, or deceptive” advertising, as those terms are interpreted by their own city attorney. The ordinance specifically calls out PRCs using “pay per click” ads using the search term “abortion” in order to display their ads when women search for abortions online. Targeting ads at a specific audience is not “false and misleading” advertising as the ordinance asserts; rather the use of these terms provides women with medically accurate information about the abortion procedure and tangible resources if they wish to choose a different option. Ironically, the ordinance was first approved in the City Council’s “Life Enrichment” Committee.
Oakland’s ordinance was drafted and sponsored by NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League, which is the nation’s largest abortion lobbyist. You may remember that Oakland is also where Pastor Walter Hoye was arrested for providing life-giving options to women outside the Family Planning Specialists facility after the Oakland City Council passed a “buffer zone” law targeting his pro-life advocacy work. Life Legal defended Hoye in the state action and filed a lawsuit challenging the law in federal court. The buffer zone law was deemed unconstitutional as applied by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Oakland Vice-Mayor Anne Campbell Washington, who introduced the so-called “Pregnancy Information Disclosure and Protection Ordinance” said that PRCs are a “growing strategy in the anti-choice movement.” Read: pregnancy centers are helping women, saving lives, and cutting into abortion industry profits. Apparently the Vice-Mayor is not aware that the first pregnancy center was established in 1967, two years before the founding of NARAL.
The Oakland ordinance is similar to laws passed in San Francisco and Montgomery County, Md. to suppress the speech of pro-life pregnancy centers. The San Francisco ordinance was upheld last year, while the Montgomery County law was overturned on First Amendment grounds. The Washington State legislature also introduced an anti-pregnancy center statute, but the bill was pulled (i.e., not voted on) because of strong opposition from the pro-life community.
Life Legal is reaching out to every city council in California to urge members not to consider ordinances that only serve to hurt women by keeping them from information and resources that allow them the opportunity to choose an option other than abortion.
We will keep you updated regarding cities that introduce the NARAL anti-choice ordinance in California and elsewhere in the nation.
- “Adopt” your local pregnancy resource center for prayer. Pray for the center’s board, director, staff and clients.
- Be prepared to act in case your city or a neighboring city considers the NARAL bill. Attend city council meetings to become familiar with the composition of your city council. Know how to contact them in case such a bill is introduced.
- Mobilize your friends and family. The Washington State legislation was defeated because the pro-life community was poised to act to protect the work of pregnancy centers.
- Be informed. Know the location and size of your closest PRC. An average-sized center easily gives over a million dollars in goods and services back to the community each year.
- Stay tuned for further information!