California Pregnancy Center Challenges San Francisco False Advertising Law in Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — A pro-life pregnancy center in California has submitted a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court in asking that it take up a case involving a San Francisco rule aimed at pregnancy centers that bans so-called “false advertising” about their services.

The Pregnancy Information Disclosure and Protection Ordinance was introduced in the city in 2011 “to prohibit limited services pregnancy centers from making false or misleading statements to the public about pregnancy-related services the centers offer or perform.”

Limited service pregnancy centers are those that do not provide or refer for abortions, nor do they offer contraceptives. They do offer, however, free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, baby clothes, diapers and formula, as well as referrals for help with housing and finances, in addition to counseling at no charge.

The organization Support Circle, then known as First Resort, filed suit against the ordinance the following year out of concern over how the law might be enforced after engaging in communication with city officials. Support Circle has three locations: one in San Francisco, one in Redwood City and one in Oakland.

It noted that there has never been a case where someone has confused the organization with an abortion facility, and opined that the law is one-sided in that it does not hold abortion facilities to the same standard as they often do not provide adoption referrals.

“There has been no testimony, documentation, no affidavits of any woman, any service, someone seeking service who has been misled. There is nothing in the record documenting that. What I fear we are doing today is passing a solution in search of a problem,” Supervisor Sean Elsbernd outlined during a public hearing on the ordinance.

According to reports, Support Circle had utilized Google advertising options so that when keywords such as “San Francisco” and “abortion” were searched, the website for the pro-life pregnancy center chain would be among those that appeared. The organization does offer counseling for those considering an abortion, as well as post-abortion counseling.

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San Francisco, however, considers this—and other text on the chain’s website—to be false advertising, according to a letter submitted to Support Circle in 2011 by City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

“While [Support Circle] is certainly entitled to offer pro-life counseling to women who desire such services, it may not lawfully attract its customers by advertising in a misleading fashion,” he wrote. “This is particularly true where the delays caused by such misleading advertising interfere with a woman’s time-sensitive and constitutionally protected right to terminate her pregnancy.”

However, Becket, the religious liberties organization representing Support Circle, believes that there is nothing improper about Support Circle’s search engine advertising as they are simply “using the same online marketing tools every non-profit and business uses—and just like it, attempts to reach women looking for other information about their pregnancy options as well.”

“Women facing an unplanned pregnancy have a right to know all their options. Yet San Francisco’s law is an attempt to make sure that when women look for information about abortion on the Internet, they only hear one side of the story—the abortion providers’ side,” the religious liberties organization states on its website.

Support Circle filed suit in 2012, but both a district court and appeals court ruled that the law was constitutional.

“The ordinance merely seeks to prevent LSPCs [limited services pregnancy centers] from harming women through false or misleading speech about their services and in no way restricts those entities from expressing their views about abortion to the public or their clients,” Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Dorothy Nelson wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last June.

On Feb. 2, Becket filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is currently considering a similar California case involving a law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to post a notice that includes information about government abortion programs.

“Left uncorrected, the Eighth and Ninth Circuits’ viewpoint-neutrality tests will enable governments within those jurisdictions to freely target the speech of those with disfavored views, provided they are careful enough to do so in facially viewpoint-neutral terms,” the petition reads. “Certiorari is warranted to ensure that the First Amendment’s prohibition on viewpoint discrimination remains a powerful bulwark against government interference in vital societal debates like the one that has long surrounded abortion.”

Read the petition in full here.

As previously reported, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Maryland pregnancy center last month, striking down a Baltimore ordinance that required pro-life pregnancy centers to post a notice advising that the facility does not offer or refer clients for abortions or contraception.

“After seven years of litigation and a 1,295-page record before us, the City does not identify a single example of a woman who entered the Greater Baltimore Center’s waiting room under the misimpression that she could obtain an abortion there,” Judge Harvie Wilkinson III, appointed to the bench by then-President Ronald Reagan, wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel.

“What the record does show is affirmative advocacy of abortion alternatives by a lawful non-profit group. None of the public advocacy of alternatives, however, suggests that the Center would provide help or assistance in obtaining an abortion,” he said. “Truthful affirmative assertions are not, without more, misleading.”

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  • Amos Moses – He>i

    California Pregnancy Center Challenges San Francisco False Advertising Law in Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

    HOW ABOUT THE FALSE ADVERTISING OF ABORTION AS HEALTHCARE ……. seems it is not healthcare for the murdered child ………… the body inside your body IS NOT YOUR BODY ……. abortion is racism and murder …………..

    • Sharon Diehl

      Re: “not healthcare”: Hundreds of thousands of medical personnel disagree
      with you, dear. All our major mainstream medical associations, as well as international medical associations, support abortion as reproductive health care for WOMEN.

      American Medical Association: “[We] oppose legislative interference with the practice of
      medicine and a woman’s relationship with her doctor… Access to safe and legal abortion is an important aspect of women’s health care. Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States.”
      “”The American Medical Women’s Association [AMWA] will oppose efforts to overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade, either directly or indirectly, as in the case of legislation which burdens access to the abortion procedure. AMWA considers all such laws and court rulings to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, and thus to violate medical autonomy and pose threats to the individual as well as the public health.”
      “Safe, legal abortion is a necessary component of women’s health care. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports the availability of high-quality reproductive health services for all women and is committed to improving access to abortion….Induced abortion is an essential component of women’s health care. Like all medical matters, decisions regarding abortion should be made by patients in consultation with their health care providers and without undue interference by outside parties. Like all patients, women obtaining abortion are entitled to privacy, dignity, respect, and support.”
      Association of Reproductive Health Care Professionals: “Abortion care is a critical component of comprehensive reproductive health care, and ARHP supports a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. The decision to continue or terminate a pregnancy belongs to the pregnant woman. ARHP opposes any judicial, legislative, or administrative attempt at the local, state, or federal levels to ban any abortion procedure or medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy.”
      Academy of Family Physicians:

      “RESOLVED, That the American Academy of Family Physicians support chapter efforts that oppose legislation that imposes on abortion providers unnecessary requirements that infringe on the practice of evidence-based medicine, and be it further

      RESOLVED, That the American Academy of Family Physicians oppose national legislation that imposes unnecessary requirements on abortion providers, reducing doctors’ ability to provide evidence-based and patient-centered care…”
      “…[World Health Organization] WHO, with support from an international
      consensus and prompted by human rights obligations, has responded to a major
      neglected public health need of women…until abortion is decriminalized, the
      tragedy of unsafe abortion will continue to haunt us and to threaten the life,
      health and rights of women. Furthermore, research aimed at developing simpler,
      improved methods for performing induced abortion has the potential to save the
      lives of millions of women globally.”
      The WMA (World Medical Association) recognizes the benefits for women who are
      able to control their fertility…The ability to do so by choice and not chance
      is a principal component of women’s physical and mental health and social well
      Your religiosity prevents you from understanding that abortion is reproductive medical care for women. That, or you’re just another misogynist.

      • RathdrumGal

        Pregnancy is not a disease, and abortion is not healthcare. I do agree that there is a lot of denial in the medical profession — even by some so-called healthcare organizations with impressive sounding names. That does not make it ethical or right.

        They do not want to admit the truth of what they do. Funny, I can watch a You Tube video of open heart surgery on the internet, but Planned Parenthood worked so hard to suppress the videos of the dismembered babies. Why did they try to suppress the evidence if it is lawful “healthcare”?

        Please notice that I did not call you a bad name. Name calling is not argument.

    • LynnRH

      I’m not sure how it’s racism but I totally agree with it being murder. LOL

      • Amos Moses – He>i

        youtube ….. look for MAAFA 21 ……… about 2 hours if you have the time ………..

      • ppp777

        I tend to agree with you there , maybe his skin colour is an indicator here ..

  • Amos Moses – He>i

    Op-Ed: Looks Like We Forgot To Defund Planned Parenthood Again Like We Promised—Shucks, Sorry, Darnit—Maybe Next Time
    February 9, 2018

  • Lydia Church

    Women do NOT have the ‘right’ to murder their unborn babies. Period.
    Rather, the babies inside of them (with one body inside another) have the right to life!

    • LynnRH

      Amen Lydia. They don’t have any more right than the father of the baby has the right to murder that baby. Just because the woman is carrying the baby doesn’t make her anymore the parent than the father is. Some women would say to that, I’m sure, that they do have more of the right than the father just because many of them end up with the total responsibility of this child because the father is “out of the picture.” If that is their argument they need to just remember there are many, many families that would love to adopt that baby.

    • Enniscorthy

      It isn’t murder. If it was, people would go to jail.

      • RathdrumGal

        Not true. Man’s laws can be distorted to protect evil and harm the innocent. For example, everything Hitler did was legal in Germany at that time. Under your premise, exterminating 6 million people for being Jewish is OK because it was “legal”.

        • Enniscorthy

          Incorrect. You must use the same definition of “murder” that the dictionary does. You are not exempt from it.