Connecticut lawmakers are taking a closer look at how crisis pregnancy centers advertise their services to women. The state Public Health Committee heard testimony this week on a bill that would make it illegal for centers to be “false, misleading or deceptive” in what they offer in reproductive medical services, counseling or treatment.
Crisis pregnancy centers often provide women with counseling and resources. Some are licensed to perform limited medical services like pregnancy tests or sonograms. Many, but not all, are religiously affiliated, and they often counsel women against seeking abortion services.
Supporters of the bill include Representative Jillian Gilchrest, who was once an executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut.
She said there’s a difference between a full service health clinic and a limited service pregnancy center.
“If CPCs want to offer religiously-based advice and care for pregnant women, so be it," she told the committee. "But purposely deceiving women into thinking they’re accessing reproductive health care in order to push religious doctrine is deceptive and should not be permitted in the state of Connecticut.”
Hartford already has a city ordinance that regulates crisis pregnancy centers. Mayor Luke Bronin told committee members the law was created in response to reports that a crisis pregnancy center in Hartford was using deceptive practices to lure women away from a health clinic that provided abortions next door.
But the committee also heard from supporters of the centers. Alice Ansley went to a faith-based center in 2012 when she became pregnant with her son.
“The women’s center helped me a lot," she said. "They helped me to communicate with my child through sign language. They showed me different things to take care of him. They never neglected me, never lied to me. We prayed together on his health and I’m very thankful and I’m glad that I met them.”
Lisa Maloney is the executive director of Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center in New London, which is a limited-service family planning clinic recognized by the state. She said in the 25 years since it opened, there hasn’t been one complaint against the center for deceptive advertising.
“Our centers are very clear about what we provide and what we don’t provide, which is very interesting considering most businesses do not put on their websites the services they don’t provide," she said. "But we feel that we’re better than that and we want to make sure that a girl knows what she’s getting when she comes into our office.”
A similar statewide bill was raised in the Public Health Committee last session, but was never given a vote.