Some Dems Want FTC to Go After Crisis Pregnancy Centers

A group of congressional Democrats are renewing an effort to target crisis pregnancy centers they claim lure women in by deceptively making women think they can get an abortion there.

The vague Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services Act has been introduced in past Congresses with no success. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal(D-Conn.) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) decided to reintroduce for the 113th Congress timed to mark National Women’s Health Week.

"While I will defend crisis centers’ First Amendment rights even though I disagree with their view of abortion, those that practice bait-and-switch should be held accountable so that pregnant women are not deceived at an extremely vulnerable time in their lives," Maloney said.

In years past, the bill gave the Federal Trade Commission enforcement powers to stop "any person from advertising with the intent to deceptively create the impression that such person is a provider of abortion services if such person does not provide abortion services." It would be a violation of section 5(a)(1) of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Beyond that, it gives wide discretion to which operations the government could decide to close.

"Deceptive practices that prey on women at pregnancy centers are particularly repugnant and reprehensible – and should be strictly punished and stopped,” Blumenthal said. “This bill would end misleading and false pitches that exploit women seeking vital health care."

The bill is backed by NARAL and the National Abortion Federation. “We know these crisis pregnancy centers lie to women in the moment they most need accurate information to decide the future of their pregnancy and their lives. It's despicable that anyone would take advantage of that decision to drive their own political agenda," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "We're thrilled that Sen. Menendez is taking action to hold these fake ‘clinics’ accountable."

Planned Parenthood also regularly lashes out at centers they call "fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion" that "have a history of giving women wrong, biased information to scare them into not having abortions."