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California AG warns against misinformation by anti-abortion centers ahead of Roe decision

The Supreme Court struck down California’s disclosure law requiring unlicensed crisis pregnancy centers alert pregnant people they don’t actually provide health care services in 2018.

SAN DIEGO (CN) — Four years after the Supreme Court upended California’s law requiring unlicensed anti-abortion clinics disclose they don’t actually provide reproductive health services to pregnant people duped into going to their facilities, California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a warning Wednesday.

“My message to California is simple: Know your rights, do your research, connect with programs that will provide you with truthful information and timely reproductive health care,” Bonta said in issuing a consumer warning.

California’s top law enforcement officer warned against clinics cosplaying as reproductive health facilities as the Supreme Court is poised to upend national abortion access codified in Roe v. Wade when it issues a ruling this summer in Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs, a challenge brought by the last abortion provider in Mississippi against the state’s 15-week abortion ban.

There are more crisis pregnancy centers — typically unlicensed clinics which advertise reproductive health care services they don’t actually provide — in California than there are abortion care clinics, Bonta said during a press conference in San Diego Wednesday.

Crisis pregnancy centers dissuade people from obtaining abortions. They are often located near reproductive health clinics, further confusing patients seeking health care services.

In an attempt to require the centers provide accurate information to people seeking health care services, California passed The Reproductive FACT Act in 2015 requiring unlicensed centers disclose their status and provide information about abortion care services in California.

The Supreme Court struck down the law in 2018, finding it discriminated against anti-abortion pregnancy centers.

Absent that state law, California now must embark on a campaign warning against misinformation crisis pregnancy centers provide to people seeking abortion and reproductive health care.

“This is very different. We’re not asking the crisis pregnancy centers to say anything, to disclose anything about who or what they are. We’re saying who and what they are, what they provide, what they don’t provide and I’m issuing it in a bulletin that has no nexus to the legal challenge that was the basis to the challenge to the FACT Act,” Bonta said.

He added: “the substance of what was being sought by the FACT Act is something that remains true today,” noting crisis pregnancy centers do not provide abortion care or abortion referrals, and, in nearly all cases, do not provide contraception or have licensed medical professionals on staff.

The consumer alert issued Wednesday included suggested research questions people seeking abortions should ask before going to a pregnancy clinic including whether the facility is licensed, if they will be seen by a licensed provider, if the facility performs or refers people for abortions and if it takes insurance or keeps information confidential.

Studies have shown crisis pregnancy centers have misinformed pregnant people about the risks associated with abortions, Bonta said, including such lies as abortion can lead to mental illness, infertility or cause breast cancer.

“As we are anticipating a ruling in weeks in the U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs decision it may very well be there is increased activity at crisis pregnancy centers, that there is an invigoration of their efforts and their agenda to impact more pregnant persons in California and beyond,” Bonta said.

While Bonta and other Golden State leaders have indicated California will ensure abortion access should federal precedent be overturned, abortion rights advocates are concerned crisis pregnancy centers will double-down on their misinformation, confusing those seeking abortions and delaying health care services.

“If Roe v. Wade is overturned or severely gutted, as we are expecting, the consequences are going to be devastating,” Vernita Gutierrez, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest said in an interview with Courthouse News.

“People are going to be traveling from other places to states like California seeking abortion care, so it’s going to be even more important that they are able to get factual information – they’re already going to be encountering a lot of barriers,” she added. 

Bonta encouraged those who believe they are the target or victim of deceptive, misleading, unfair or unlawful conduct to file a complaint with his office at www.oag.ca.gov/report.

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