- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged the General Assembly on Wednesday to adopt legislation in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers.”

The Democrat called on lawmakers to pass legislation in the upcoming session that would ban false and “deceptive advertising practices,” which he said are associated with the facilities that seek to prevent abortions.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling reversed a lower court decision upholding a California law that required the centers to more fully disclose what they are.

NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut leader Sarah Croucher said people in the city of Hartford “are being deceived when they seek out medical care.” NARAL’s Connecticut chapter said following a two-year investigation that only 11 percent of the crisis pregnancy centers in the state have licensed medical professionals on staff. About 70 percent did not explicitly disclose if they were licensed medical facilities. There are currently more than 18 licensed abortion facilities in Connecticut and 25 crisis pregnancy centers.

In one case, the Hartford GYN Center, a clinic that has provided abortions since the 1970s and its newer neighbor, the Hartford Women’s Center, an operation run by St. Gerard’s Center for Life, are located within walking distance of each other.



Hartford Mayor Luke A. Bronin testified in favor of legislation earlier this year banning deceptive advertising, saying that women walking into appointments at the Hartford GYN Center are intercepted and encouraged to go to the Hartford Women’s Center instead.

The Hartford Women’s Center did not immediately return requests for comment, but has said publicly that it is anti-abortion and that it has volunteers and staff redirect women going to Hartford GYN. The center’s director has said they have two nurses and one doctor, all licensed and providing “limited medical ultrasounds.”

Roxanne Sutocky, director of community engagement for Hartford GYN Center, said St. Gerard’s Center for Life picketed outside of her office for years. The Center for Life purchased a space within the same complex in 2017, holding an inaugural event in May.

“They keep their doors ajar and welcome people in the door with white jackets,” Sutocky said. She countered that the few licensed professionals at the facility are “volunteer medical providers,” who are not on site taking care of patients.

A handful of anti-abortion activists rallied at the state Capitol on Tuesday in response to Hartford’s decision to suspend an ordinance that would have penalized crisis pregnancy centers for providing clients with misleading information ahead of a July 1 implementation date. The ordinance, passed in December 2017, says centers in Hartford without medical personnel on staff must disclose that. The holdup for execution is to allow attorneys for the city to assess how the U.S. Supreme Court decision could impact the legality of the ordinance.

Sutocky said the point of the legislation was to make sure that when women entered the Hartford Women’s Center, they would have to be told that they were not being treated by a licensed medical provider. Hartford GYN Center has taken extra precautions to avoid patient confusion, including posting volunteers outside.

The anti-abortion group Family Institute of Connecticut had threatened to sue the city of Hartford over the legislation. The group did not immediately reply to a request for comment over whether that would change with the pending legal assessment by city attorneys.

“We’re not going to move forward with enforcement until we’re clear that we can, or that if it’s challenged, the ordinance would stand up in court,” said city attorney Howard Rifkin.

Malloy says any future statewide legislation should require all providers to offer information about how to access “comprehensive reproductive health care” upon request. He also wants crisis pregnancy centers to be required to disclose that they often do not have licensed medical providers on staff.

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Betancourt reported from Boston.

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