The legislation proposed by Baltimore City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake to require crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide abortion or birth control services (or referrals for those services) to post a sign saying so has turned into a tempest in a teapot. Those clinics, which are nonprofits, say they're being singled out by abortion rights groups. Advocates from NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland say they've sent undercover interns to centers like those - including one in Baltimore - and found they were given inaccurate information about abortion, such as the myths that it causes cancer and infertility. Congressional investigators have made similar findings at such centers nationwide.
At the end of the day, the legislation just requires a sign. It doesn't say anything inaccurate or misleading, and the people who run the clinics aren't otherwise shy about their opposition to abortion rights. They worry that pro-choice groups would use the law to harass them and rack up fines, but that's not realistic. The city isn't going to deputize NARAL. Perhaps few people are presently confused about the kind of services that are now being offered at these centers, but their clients are women going through an extremely difficult time, and it's hard to imagine the harm in making sure they know exactly what they can expect.
By that token, the City Council should pass the bill, but not before amending it to place the same requirements on centers that do provide abortion and birth control services and referrals. Ms. Rawlings-Blake is taking a step in this direction by offering an amendment to require any centers that do not provide adoption referrals (if any exist) to post signs saying so. If the goal is truth in advertising, it should apply to everyone.
I question the objectivity of NARAL's investigation, but pro-life groups have made too big a deal over this. It's just a sign.
Real health clinics, like the City of Baltimore Health Department clinics and Planned Parenthood, all offer women FDA-approved birth control options. These "pretend" centers that lure women in with free pregnancy tests only exist to prevent women from accessing birth control and abortion and to evangelize to them. Women should at the very least have a sign that gives them a hint of what to expect.