November 14, 2017 – Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and the Hartford City Council last night introduced an ordinance regulating the false advertising practices of “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs).
CPCs are fake clinics that outnumber licensed family planning clinics in Connecticut. CPCs use deceptive tactics to try to stop patients seeking genuine reproductive healthcare from accessing abortions. One aggressive crisis pregnancy center has moved in on the same premises as the last independent abortion clinic in Connecticut, Hartford GYN Center, in order to target patients of the clinic. The CPC has changed its name from “St. Gerard’s Center for Life” to “Hartford Women’s Center” in order to confuse and intercept patients who are seeking abortion care and have appointments with the Hartford GYN Center. The CPC has lured patients in by claiming their appointments are with the CPC, and then gives them misleading information. Patients have been told things such as that they are “sinning” and risking death by seeking a straightforward medical procedure.
The ordinance will prohibit crisis pregnancy centers from disseminating false, misleading, or deceptive information about the services they provide, and from deceiving women into thinking that they provide specific services, like abortion, when they don’t. It also requires crisis pregnancy centers to tell people who enter their facilities whether or not there is actually a licensed medical provider on the premises and available to provide medical services. This ordinance is intended to protect the rights of women in Hartford who right now are being lied to, misled, and deceived when they are seeking reproductive healthcare. It has been referred to the Hartford City Council Health and Human Services Committee for a public hearing as the next step toward passing this vital protection.
Sarah Croucher, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut said, “We are heartened to see the Mayor of Hartford and council members respond so strongly to this threat to women’s health. It is unimaginable that a woman seeking an abortion would be lied to, shamed, and given medically incorrect information when she thinks she is in a real medical office. Yet that is happening on a regular basis right here in Hartford, and we are proud to have worked with the Mayor, the City Council, and numerous others, in crafting a reasonable solution to protect women’s health.”
The administrator of Hartford GYN Center said, “We are grateful to Mayor Bronin and the City Council for recognizing the need for this ordinance. Since 1981, the Hartford GYN Center has served the Hartford community by providing abortion care by licensed physicians and practitioners, as well as well woman visits and the full range of reproductive health care, always based on accurate, trustworthy medical information. We've seen firsthand the dangers that CPCs pose by luring in patients and doing whatever it takes to convince them not to have an abortion -- even if that means lying to them about their pregnancies. This ordinance will protect our patients and the wider Hartford community from CPCs' deceptive practices.”
Priscilla Smith, Clinical Lecturer in Law and Senior Fellow at the Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice, Information Society Project, Yale Law School said, “The First Amendment does not protect false advertising or someone who impersonates a medical provider. The ordinance is carefully drafted in accordance with this well-established legal doctrine, and simply prevents pregnancy centers from using deceptive tactics and lying to women about the nature of the services they provide. It does not prevent anyone from expressing their opinions on abortion or from attempting to dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion.”
Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, said, “When a woman is pregnant she needs access to trustworthy and quality care, not junk science. Through this ordinance, Hartford is both protecting access to accurate, trustworthy medical care for women, and exemplifying what it means to be a leader in local reproductive health policy. This is exactly the kind of proactive, forward-thinking action we need to see from mayors, city councils, and advocates across the country. We applaud our Connecticut partners and Mayor Bronin for advancing this effort, and encourage the City Council wholeheartedly approve this measure.”
About NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, Inc.
The legislative arm of NARAL works to pass pro-choice legislation and defend against anti-choice legislation at the State Capitol, believing strongly that all women have the right to access the full range of reproductive choices including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and choosing legal abortion.