First Resort, a so-called “crisis pregnancy center” in San Francisco, has until the end of the month to change its advertisements misleading women about abortion-related services — or else. “Crisis pregnancy centers” often look like women’s health clinics and advertise about pregnancy counseling and services; they claim to help women pay for prenatal care and give them free diapers and other baby supplies. However, CPCs are frequently run by religious organizations and don’t have actual medical professionals on staff; instead, they “counsel” women to not have abortions. Thus, the SF city attorney sent First Resort a cease-and-desist letter warning them about its ads that “appear to be designed to confuse or mislead consumers.” The SF Supervisor Malia Cohen also introduced an ordinance on Tuesday that would punish CPCs for using misleading statements in their ads that make it seem like they provide abortion or counseling for abortions.A First Resort spokesperson denied their advertisements are misleading. However, the First Resort CPC comes up in a Google search if you search “San Francisco abortion,” although they do not terminate unwanted pregnancies themselves or even give women referrals to clinics that will. In fact, the San Francisco Examiner notes, the organization’s bylaws, as filed with the state of California in 1997, explain it “seek[s] to direct women and their partners who view abortion as the only solution to an unwanted pregnancy toward choosing life for their unborn babies.”
Other cities to crack down on CPCs include New York City, Baltimore and Austin. Oftentimes, the CPCs push back and say regulation of their ads is an infringement on their free speech. Stay tuned to see what happens to First Resort: something tells me it won’t go down without a fight.