San Francisco Ordinance Against Pregnancy Resource Centers Passes

UPDATE — Please see April 2012 article.

On Tuesday, October 18, 2011, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved 10-1 the first reading an ordinance restricting what pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) are allowed to say to potential clients. The law would apply to pro-life pregnancy centers that do not counsel for or refer for abortions or the morning after pill, but would not impact abortion clinics or abortion referral services.

Supervisor Malia Cohen claims that the ordinance would prohibit pregnancy centers from making misleading or incomplete statements about their mission and scope. San Francisco’s two pregnancy resource centers already fully disclose their position on abortion to potential clients. One effect of this ordinance would be to price them out of competitive advertising.

“There has been no testimony, no documentation, no affidavits of any woman seeking service who has been misled. There is nothing in the record documenting that,” stated Sean Elsbernd, the only Supervisor to vote against the measure. “What I hear we are doing today is passing a solution in search of a problem.” The only evidence adduced in support of the measure was a review, hearsay testimony from a doctor and a statement from a woman who contacted one of the centers.

Similar laws in Baltimore, Maryland, and New York City have been struck down by the courts as violations of the Free Speech rights of pro-life pregnancy centers. Austin, Texas is the current scene of a court challenge to Austin’s version of this legislation. The San Francisco ordinance purports to prohibit “false” and “misleading” information or omissions, but leaves a determination of violation and enforcement up to the City Attorney. Fines could be as high as $500 per violation.

“This type of legislation is a direct attack on the lifesaving work of pro-life pregnancy resource centers,” stated Dana Cody, President and Executive Director of LLDF. “Anti-life organizations such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and its state affiliates have launched a concerted effort to undermine a woman’s right to choose life for her child. LLDF remains committed to protecting the Free Speech rights of pro-life pregnancy centers so that they can continue to save lives.”

Please also see previous post on this topic.

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