- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Crisis pregnancy centers that discourage women from getting abortions in California will be required to provide information about abortions and other services under legislation Gov. Jerry Brown has approved.

The measure imposes the first such statewide rule, after local communities around the country have tried similar efforts.

Pregnancy crisis centers often are operated by abortion opponents, and critics say workers imply the facilities provide a range of medical care and have credentials they do not possess.

Under the new law, the centers will be required to offer information about affordable contraception, abortion and prenatal care. Those that are unlicensed also must inform clients of their status.

Backers of the measure include the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice California.

The law’s supporters say the California measure was specifically crafted to address concerns raised by courts elsewhere, which have blocked some local attempts to require centers to disclose information about whether they provide referrals for abortion, emergency contraception or prenatal care.

NARAL estimates there are more than 4,000 pregnancy crisis centers, or pregnancy help centers, operating in the U.S., offering services such as pregnancy and STD testing, ultrasounds and counseling.

Critics say center employees imply the facilities provide a range of medical care and have credentials they do not possess, existing merely to coerce women into continuing their pregnancies. They say the clinics provide false information, including making unproven claims about health risks associated with using birth control or having an abortion.

Under the California measure, the centers must offer information about affordable contraception, abortion and prenatal care. Unlicensed facilities must inform clients of their status.

The legislation by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Los Angeles, was sponsored by NARAL Pro-Choice California and Black Women for Wellness, and supported by Attorney General Kamala Harris, a candidate for U.S. Senate. The groups said women need access to health information that is free from coercion.

“A growing and alarming movement is working to mislead women in order to achieve their political ideology,” Chiu said in a statement.

Critics such as Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, said the bill forces clinics against their will to pay for and distribute abortion referral information.

“Does the government have a right to tell a newspaper what to write, a preacher what to preach, a private school what to teach? Of course not,” Grove said in arguing against the bill. “So why is it OK for the government to force prolife pregnancy centers against their will to advertise and promote government abortion services?”

The proposal came to the Legislature after San Francisco passed a local ordinance prohibiting advertising it deemed misleading by crisis pregnancy centers. A federal judge upheld the ban.

Brown also signed a bill this session by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, requiring health clinics that provide abortions or birthing services to apply for waivers from mandatory hospital transfer agreements. Gomez says such clinics are the only ones not allowed to obtain waivers, restricting access for women who live in areas without hospitals. That bill was sponsored by Planned Parenthood.

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