Should CA be able to require crisis pregnancy centers to mention abortion access? (ethics not law)

To set the stage, I am pro-choice and I think it’s important that abortions be available and affordable when they are wanted.
California has a law that required crisis pregnancy centers to do two things:

  1. They have to say that they are not medical providers, and
  2. They have to post information about state help with abortion and contraception.

This law is in the news right now because those CPC have sued California over this requirement, saying that it’s an infringement of their 1st amendment rights to have someone forcing them to speak in support of abortion. This case is heading to the SCOTUS. But I want to talk about the ethics here, not about whether this is constitutional.
To me, 1 above is perfectly valid and right. Someone should not be misled about an entity’s ability to provide medical care. There should never be deceptive medical advertising.

But on 2, I disagree with the law and its intention. The ability to access state resources should not be a required disclosure. Yes, California has resources that can help people get contraceptives and abortions. No, I don’t think anyone but California should have the responsibility to get this word out.

(This goes along with my feelings about other states’ abortion laws as well. There should not be any requirement for abortion clinics to give anything but medical information, and all medical information should have to be accurate.)

So, are you like me and think this law is pushing some ethical boundaries? Or do you think it’s 100% valid? Or do you think the whole thing is not just pushing boundaries but has leapfrogged all ethical constraints?

I think the mitigating factor here is that this requirement affects only those clinics that are licensed by the state, and the state is not forbidding folks from operating unlicensed centers, which can say whatever they want (although they do have to inform their visitors that they are not licensed). I probably wouldn’t push for this requirement myself, but I don’t see any ethical issues with the state doing it.

I’m strongly pro-choice, if that matters.

Do abortion clinics have to inform their clients about other kinds of service providers? If everybody has to tell women about other options, it would be fair.

I agree.

I also agree.


I’m with you OP, though I’m curious about the licensing aspect.

Usually having a licensed version of the entity makes the unlicensed version illegal. How does it work in this case? What are the benefits to a crisis center getting a license?

I think, though I may be confused, that the licensing is medical licensing. So when the CBCs are not medical providers, they have to say so.

But I though all of them needed to provide the abortion information. That was my error. It appears, like John Mace said, that licensed clinics (i.e. actual medical providers) need to post the information about the availability of help with contraception and abortion. The others just need to say they are not medical providers.

SO! This… doesn’t change my opinion. :slight_smile:

Why is this a problem? It’s done all the time. The break room in my office is filled with posters about federal and state labor laws and OSHA notices and my rights and services I can access. Pretty sure my employer is required to post that.

How is that fundamentally different than this?

I think there’s a difference between a job having to post labor laws and your rights if they violate labor laws and a job having to post, say, alternatives to working there. To me, the CA requirement is a lot closer to the latter than the former.

Do you think it is ethical if a medical facility which advertises itself as giving advice on cancer treatments only discusses a subset of treatments that they may profit from? In the CPC case the profit is ideological, not monetary.
A Planned Parenthood counseling facility should by the same rule, not say that the only solution to an unwanted pregnancy is abortion. Which I’m sure they do.

We expect our medical facilities to act in the interests of patients, not out of ideological or religious motivations.

A place where a woman goes for a specific procedure is different from a place where they go to get advice - which seems to be what the CPCs claim to be. So an abortion clinic (as opposed to Planned Parenthood, say) should not be forced to try to talk a client out of her decision. An orphanage where a woman might want to place a baby should not be forced to offer abortion as an alternative either.

To throw another hypothetical out there, there are various businesses that are basically based on misleading customers to overpay for junk. For example, car dealerships in many states must disclose that various fees are not mandatory under any law (because car dealers used to argue that their $900 dealer prep fee was required, implying that it was required by law). To use another example, I personally do not believe there is any palm reading business that doesn’t actually survive by defrauding some customers out of large amounts of money for nonsense like removing hexes or whatnot.

Where do you stand on businesses being required to make certain declarations due to that line of business being closely associated with fraud or generally unethical business practices?

People may not like it but IIRC access to abortion is a woman’s right in this country currently.

Since the plaintiffs in this case claim infringement of their free speech I am guessing that is why you find the California law unethical.

Personally I do not buy into the notion of corporate personhood and I do not think corporations/businesses should necessarily enjoy the same protections under the law as individuals do. I see no reason why the state cannot force a business to disclose something that is intrinsically linked to what their business does.

Further, you said in the OP that, “There should not be any requirement for abortion clinics to give anything but medical information…”. Why isn’t this included in “medical information” in your view? They are informing the woman of other procedures available to her and where she can obtain those procedures.

I probably confused the issue by saying “abortion clinic”. I meant a clinic where a woman went which offered abortion as an option. So this -

is pretty much what I was saying.


I do not know what PP is legally required to say but they do inform women of all their options related to their pregnancy and if the woman chooses something like adoption PP will point her in the right direction to get her started.

The anti-abortion movement has been working for years to force abortion providers to do things like force women to watch an ultrasound of their embryo, or fetus, whatever the case may be.

And they use deceitful practices to get women to their clinics. Some women end up there thinking it’s where they can obtain an abortion, and then find themselves practically held prisoner. As far as helping women out by giving them things like diapers or other baby needs, the one in the last city where I lived gave you stuff only if you brought in a paper from the church you had attended the previous Sunday, to prove you’d been to church.

I have no problem with forcing them to be honest. If they weren’t so deceptive in the first place, I might be more sympathetic to their claims of being violated.

I think this falls under the requirement that they make clear they are not medical service providers. I think car dealerships should have to make clear that certain fees are not mandatory if they aren’t, but I don’t think they should have to tell you where to go to buy a scooter or suggest that really, you could try walking.

Actually to make your example work it would be more like going to Joe’s Car Megastore only to find there are no cars there and Joe and his team press you on the evils of cars and wouldn’t a bicycle be really nice instead.

To balance that out the state tells Joe’s Auto Megastore that they have to tell people car dealerships exist nearby.

I’m thinking the state could handle it like this: any facility that provides pregnancy-related services or counseling gives everyone who walks in the door a card saying:

Whether they are or aren’t a medical provider.
Whether they do or don’t provide barrier contraceptives.
Whether they do or don’t prescribe hormonal contraceptives.
Whether they will or won’t refer you to facilities that will provide/prescribe the above upon request.
Whether they do or don’t provide abortion services.
Whether they will or won’t refer you to facilities that provide abortion services upon request.

I can’t see a Constitutional or a moral problem with this.

The main problem I have with ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ is that they’re a bait-and-switch operation. They have only one answer to your ‘crisis’: carry the pregnancy to term, then the baby’s your problem, lady.

Which of course was the most likely reason why a pregnancy would have been a crisis to begin with: the woman wasn’t prepared for a couple of decades of (probably single) parenthood. See, we’ve extended your crisis through the next eighteen years, minimum - what, no thanks?

So a card upfront saying no, we don’t provide abortion services, and we won’t refer you to anyone who does, would at least make that clear from the get-go.

I wouldn’t have an issue with that.

I should be clear that I’m not really decided on the questions posed by the OP: they’re tough questions and I have to think about them.

But I do believe there is a difference between saying, “We are NOT a medical service provider” and saying what they ARE. Pregnancy crisis centers also are not grocery stores, airports, or libraries… but simply declaring what you are not doesn’t really dispel the misrepresentations that they commonly seem to make as to what they ARE.

And the main mission of what they are is clearly to dissuade women from exercising a constitutional right of theirs, often using false or misleading tactics. I bet these centers would be viewed quite differently by their patrons if the centers had to disclose that the only they exist is to convince patrons not to have an abortion.

Again, I’m not certain that they should be compelled to do so, but I’m not terribly sympathetic to organizations that systematically try to hide their main purpose through misrepresentations on multiple levels.

My point was there is a distinction between places offering information and those offering a specific service. Those who want to defund Planned Parenthood speak of it as an abortion clinic, not a full service facility offering all kinds of information and reproductive services.
So, do you agree that a place claiming to offer information should offer information on all the alternatives?