Tag: abortion rights

Seattle Legislation Aims to Stop “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” From Lying Quite So Much

By Erica C. Barnett

At a press conference and bill signing for three pieces of legislation aimed at protecting people who seek abortions in Seattle, City Councilmember Tammy Morales said she had also introduced legislation that would bar so-called crisis pregnancy centers—fake clinics run by religious anti-abortion groups—from false advertising at their locations inside city limits.

CPCs, also known as “limited-service pregnancy centers,” use deceptive tactics to get pregnant people in the door, using phrases like “pregnancy alternatives” to suggest they provide abortions. Inside, staffers attempt to persuade people to go through with their pregnancies, offering “non-diagnostic ultrasounds” and the promise of “free” baby-related items in the future.

According to a 2021 report by the Alliance, a coalition of groups supporting reproductive and gender justice, these “free” items were almost always contingent on participation in Christian programming, such as “counseling, Bible studies, abstinence seminars, video screenings, or other ideological CPC programming.” Despite their baby-centric advertising, they virtually never offer contraception, STI testing, or prenatal care of any kind.

Morales’ bill, which her Neighborhoods, Education, Civil Rights, and Culture Committee approved on Friday, would bar CPCs in Seattle from making misleading or false claims about their services, or to claim or imply that they provide abortions, prenatal care, or other services that they don’t provide. The bill also emphasizes, in a “whereas” clause, the city’s commitment to state law protecting the privacy of people who seek abortion care.

On Monday, Morales said she hoped the bill would help address some of the privacy issues associated with these fake clinics, which collect personal medical information from their “patients” but are not subject to federal medical privacy laws. If someone came to a CPC from a state where abortion was illegal and told a CPC worker they planned to go through with an abortion in Washington state, that CPC could have collected enough information to report that person to the authorities in their home state, for example.

“The potential is that they could use that information to track who is seeking abortion care, and this is particularly dangerous for people who might be coming from states where this is illegal now, so it’s trying to address both of those things,” Morales said.

There are only about three CPCs (two CareNet outposts and a group called 3W, which has denied it is a crisis pregnancy center) currently operating in Seattle, plus a pregnancy center operated by Catholic Community Services; Morales said she was also aware of a “mobile clinic” operating in South Seattle. However, many more CPCs are located around the Puget Sound region, including Next Step Pregnancy Services (Lynnwood), the Pregnancy Resource Clinic (Everett), Pregnancy Resource Services (Bremerton), Pregnancy Aid (Auburn, Des Moines, and Kent), and nine other CareNet outlets.

Morales said her legislation (co-sponsored by Councilmember Lisa Herbold) is modeled on a San Francisco law—the Pregnancy Information Disclosure and Protection Ordinance, passed in 2011. That law bans CPCs in San Francisco from misleading the public about what services they provide.

Sate legislation would be more effective still, because it would apply everywhere, including rural areas where anti-abortion sentiment is more prevalent than it is in liberal Seattle. No one in the state legislature has introduced a bill related to crisis pregnancy centers since 2012, when a proposal to prevent CPCs from misleading pregnant people died in committee.

A more sweeping 2015 law, known as the Reproductive FACT Act, required crisis pregnancy centers to inform potential clients that California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to reproductive health care, prenatal care, and abortion; it also required unlicensed CPCs to disclose that they were not medical facilities. CPCs challenged the law and the US Supreme Court struck it down in a 5-4 decision in 2015.

In 2017, the Seattle/King County Board of Health passed a rule requiring crisis pregnancy centers to post two 11-by-17-inch signs saying “This facility is not a health care facility.” King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski cited the Supreme Court’s decision on the FACT Act a year later as one reason the county didn’t propose a more sweeping law. County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who was defeated last year, was the only board of health member to vote against the rule; before the vote, she circulated through the crowd in council chambers, passing out anti-abortion literature.

Seattle’s legislation, which is certain to pass, will have less impact than would countywide legislation imposing similar rules; state legislation would be more effective still, because it would apply everywhere, including rural areas where anti-abortion sentiment is more prevalent than it is in liberal Seattle. No one in the state legislature has introduced a bill related to crisis pregnancy centers since 2012, when a proposal to prevent CPCs from misleading pregnant people died in committee.

Democrats, Republicans, and “Nonpartisan Party” Candidate Face off for Secretary of State; Council Takes Up Abortion Bills

1. The race for Washington Secretary of State—a position to which no Democrat has been elected since the 1960s—has drawn eight candidates, among them two Republicans, two Democrats (including the appointed incumbent, former state Sen. Steve Hobbs), and four candidates with other affiliations, including Pierce County auditor and “nonpartisan party” candidate Julie Anderson. (One candidate, Tamborine Borelli, is running with an “America First (R)” affiliation).

At a virtual forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Washington last week, five of the eight candidates described what their priorities would be if elected. Three of the five—Hobbs, Anderson, and former Republican state legislator Mark Miloscia—have reported raising more than $50,000.

The other two candidates at the forum were Marquez Tiggs, a Democrat who said he would support in-person voting to increase turnout and require voter IDs at polling stations, and Bob Hagglund, a Republican who said he wants to require voter ID so that “the people who should not be voting don’t get their vote and don’t get their ballots counted.” Borelli, “Union Party” candidate Kurtis Engle, and Republican Keith Waggoner did not participate.

Hobbs and Anderson, the two top fundraisers and likely frontrunners, both emphasized their experience—Hobbs as an expert on disinformation from his training as a member of the US Army National Guard, and Anderson as Pierce County auditor for the past 12 years. Anderson said she would be the first Secretary of State to embrace nonpartisanship. “Political parties do not belong in the Secretary of State’s office,” she said, adding that she would support legislation to make the office officially nonpartisan. Hobbs said it doesn’t matter to him whether the office is partisan or not, because “it’s about the person that’s in the office, not the label.”

Among other claims, Republican Secretary of State candidate Mark Miloscia has argued that “perverts” on the left are “coming after our children,” denouncing abortion rights supporters, and accusing Democrats of “indoctrinating children with the demonic tenants of pagan radicalism.

The two candidates also differed on the issue of ranked choice voting (Anderson said she supports it as a matter of “local choice,” while Hobbs said it “just adds a new complicated element to elections” and “is vastly unfair to new Americans to come to this country where English is not their first language.” Both agreed that the state should do more to protect the security of elections, although Hobbs emphasized outreach and voter contact, including heightened efforts to reach voters when the signatures on their mail-in ballots are rejected while Anderson proposed a “statewide risk limiting audit” on a single race to test election security.

Since leaving office (and running unsuccessfully for state auditor in 2012 and 2016), Miloscia has been the director of the Family Institute of Washington, where he has written prolifically and conspiratorially about the decline of “traditional values.” Among other claims, Miloscia has argued that “perverts” on the left are “coming after our children,” denouncing abortion rights supporters, and accusing Democrats of “indoctrinating children with the demonic tenants of pagan radicalism.” (Also, he is positively obsessed with drag queens, who he says are tempting children with “lie[s] from the devil.”)

2. The city council will take up three different bills aimed at addressing access to abortion, two of them delayed because one of their sponsors, Councilmember Tammy Morales, contracted COVID.

The first, sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, aims to turn Seattle into a “sanctuary city” for abortion providers by directing the City Attorney’s Office and police not to cooperate with investigations, subpoenas, or search or arrest warrants by out-of-state authorities seeking to prosecute abortion providers who take refuge in Seattle. “If people break the unjust anti-abortion laws in their own state and believe they will be caught, they can come to Seattle to stave off prosecution,” Sawant said at a Monday afternoon council briefing.

The legislation also says that if Washington state bans or restricts abortion in the future, the police must make cooperation with other law enforcement authorities among its lowest law-enforcement priorities, along with marijuana-related offenses.

The second, from Morales and Councilmember Lisa Herbold, incorporates a 1993 state law that makes it a gross misdemeanor to interfere with a patient’s access to health care facilities, such as clinics and hospitals that provide abortions, by blocking entrances, disturbing the peace, and harassing or threatening patients or clinic employees. And the third, also sponsored by Morales and Herbold, would prohibit discrimination based on a person’s perceived pregnancy outcomes; for example, an employer could not fire or penalize an employee because the employer believed she had an abortion.

Although both proposals seem likely to pass, they also illustrate the limitations of what blue cities in blue states can do to mitigate the impact of abortion bans nationwide—it’s unlikely, for example, that abortion providers from across the country will resettle in Seattle en masse to avoid pursuit and prosecution by anti-choice judges and law enforcement officials in their home states.

Statewide efforts to fund abortion providers who will be inundated with out-of-state patients would be more impactful, as would restrictions on additional mergers between secular and Catholic hospitals, which not only refuse to provide abortions but often refuse to manage miscarriages in progress or provide tubal ligations or birth control. Earlier this year, a state bill that would have required some transparency when health care systems merge failed to make it out of committee.