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Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act would ban false advertising by anti-abortion crisis pregnancy…

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Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act would ban false advertising by anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPC’s)

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY12)
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

Some states have triple as many anti-abortion crisis pregancy centers as pro-choice abortion clinics.


False advertising has been illegal for more than a century, ever since enactment of the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914. Those laws apply regardless of the format or medium in which the false advertising appeared.

Opinions are a different story. For example, you can advertise that your pizza is “the best pizza on planet earth!” even if it’s almost certainly not, because that’s an opinion, rather than a claim of fact. But you’re not supposed to be able to advertise with fake statistics or outright inaccurate information.

Since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in June, many states are poised to ban or limit abortion. Democrats worry about nonprofit organizations called crisis pregnancy centers, or CPC’s. These appear to be reproductive healthcare providers on the outside, but actually operate with the intention of discouraging women from obtaining abortions and are not medical providers at all.

CPC’s are disproportionately found in the same South and Midwest states which are poised to enact the most stringent restrictions on abortion. NBC News recently conducted an undercover operation in which they visited state-funded CPC’s in Texas and received medical misinformation, such as that obtaining an abortion can cause infertility. (With extremely rare exceptions, it doesn’t.)

However, the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t go after CPC’s, for two main reasons. #1: many are nonprofits which don’t charge for their services, thus they’re exempted from truth-in-advertising laws. #2: because they’re not technically medical practices, they’re therefore exempt from regulatory oversight laws and regulations which apply to medical practices.

What the legislation does

The Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act would explicitly include CPC’s in the federal government’s false-advertising laws, by banning “advertising with the use of deceptive or misleading statements related to the provision of abortion services.”

Violations can be punished with either a fine up to $100,000 or 50% of the organization’s revenues from the preceding year, whichever is greater. The legislation also clarifies that its provisions would apply to nonprofits, such as CPC’s.

The House version was introduced on June 23 as H.R. 8210, by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY12). The Senate version was introduced the same day as S. 4469, by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

What supporters say

Supporters argue that these organizations are giving women — often some of the most vulnerable women — false information, of a nature far more consequential than some of the comparatively milder false claims the federal government has gone after in years past.

“No one should have to question that the person they are seeking medical advice from is actually a doctor or that information is accurate, objective, and complete,” Rep. Maloney said in a press release. “It is truly disgusting that reproductive rights are being threatened and attacked by crisis pregnancy centers whose guiding principle is to mislead, misinform, and outright lie to pregnant people in order to dissuade them from having an abortion. It is long past time that we prohibit these predatory tactics to undermine reproductive rights.”

“With women’s reproductive rights under a coordinated attack by Republicans across the country, it is more important than ever that women continue to have access to trusted information and comprehensive reproductive health care services,” Sen. Menendez said in a separate press release. “By promoting deceptive or misleading advertisements about abortion services, crisis pregnancy centers jeopardize women’s health and well-being, all while elevating unproven theories about birth control and contraceptive care.”

What opponents say

Opponents counter that laws like this are too vague, punishing even legitimate speech.

Deceptive is a subjective word,” Heartbeat International General Counsel Danielle White told the anti-abortion outlet Pregnancy Help News, after the progressive town Somerville, Massachusetts enacted a similar law at the local level. “Those in favor of the ordinance claim that pregnancy centers shouldn’t even exist, so they could use their vague language to penalize even the most innocuous advertising.”

White provides the example of an advertising slogan like: “Unexpected pregnancy? We can help.” Could that be banned? “Someone who believes that the only way to ‘help’ an unexpected pregnancy is to end it might say that short advertisement is deceptive,” White said.

(While it’s highly unlikely that an advertising slogan like that would be ruled illegal, a CPC giving outright false medical information could be, such as that abortion causes breast cancer.)

Odds of passage

The House version has attracted 66 cosponsors, all Democrats. It awaits a potential vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Senate version has attracted 15 cosponsors: 15 Democrats and one independent. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

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This article was written by GovTrack Insider staff writer Jesse Rifkin.

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Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act would ban false advertising by anti-abortion crisis pregnancy… was originally published in GovTrack Insider on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.