On November 16, 2011, First Resort, a San Francisco organization that describes itself as existing “solely to provide free medical care and counseling services to assist women in making fully informed decisions about unplanned pregnancies,” filed a lawsuit against the City of San Francisco, alleging that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ ban on crisis pregnancy centers’ engagement in “false or misleading advertising practices,” interfered with their First Amendment rights.
First Resort is one of many so-called crisis pregnancy centers (also called CPCs) across the country which claim to provide accurate medical information to women considering abortions, but instead engage in practices that range from spouting total falsehoods to bullying. Reports surfaced in North Carolina recently that a Jewish woman visiting a number of CPCs was told not only to not have an abortion, but that she would go to hell. At one, she was even told to become a born again virgin.
The Huffington Post has reported that at First Resort in San Francisco, these baby hungry anti-choice mavens are not satisfied with walk in traffic to the clinic style offices, whose awning reads “A Woman’s Choice Resource Center.” Instead, according to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, First Resort actively recruits women unsure of their options by purchasing Google ads for the term “abortion San Francisco,” so that they could ensure that their website would be at the top of results for anyone searching for abortion services in the area.
Unfortunately, laws protecting women from organizations whose singular focus on babies and controlling women’s bodies leads them to lie do not have a great track record for survival in our legal system. Earlier this year, a Federal judge struck down a similar law in New York, on the grounds that the First Amendment should somehow be extrapolated and perverted to mean that it is okay to lie to women when they are at their most vulnerable.
SF Appeal reported that Bayview Supervisor Malia Cohen put a great deal of effort into writing the law in such a way that it “both protects free speech as well as any women at risk of being misled.” She clarified to reporters this week that, “this legislation does not limit or prescribe what views groups or individuals may express. Rather it prevents groups from knowingly engaging in false or misleading advertising about the pregnancy related services they offer.”
Which, I suppose means that any San Francisco abortion clinics cannot, unfortunately, tell potential clients that having an abortion will make them thinner or blonder without incurring the city’s new $500-per-infraction fine. If there is a San Francisco Planned Parenthood location, then they better not promise a free cruise or day at Disneyland following each procedure without following through.
Except that, as far as I know, there are no abortion clinics offering designer shoes as gifts-with-purchase-of-abortion or failing to provide full medical information to their patients. So, if First Resort, or other CPCs feel like they are being singled out for providing misinformation, then maybe they should start asking themselves why they need to lie, instead of sucking up the courts’ time and money by suing.