The Baltimore City Council is apparently very concerned about full disclosure by health care providers. A bill has been introduced aimed at one particular category of health facilities: nonprofit pro-life pregnancy counseling centers. The stated goal is to provide accurate information for women who approach a clinic, intending to visit an abortion clinic or seeking family planning services.
Proponents of the ordinance say women have been deceived by pro-life clinics that offer pregnancy testing and ultrasounds, but will not provide contraceptives, abortions or other services in conflict with their foundational values.
So, the Baltimore City Council has determined that in order to protect the public, pregnancy resource centers in the city should inform their clientele of the services they do not provide. If the bill passes, a disclaimer would have to be posted in such resource centers noting what services are not offered (for example, abortion and contraception) and centers would be fined $500 per day for not posting the disclaimer.
If the ordinance is not just politically motivated but is actually aimed at better informing the public, why aim it only at pregnancy resource centers? Why stop there? We’d like to suggest a few more additions to the ordinance.
In dentists’ offices: “We don’t provide appendectomies.”
In neurology offices: “No foot surgery here.”
If that seems ridiculous, it is because those health care professionals do not intend to provide the services mentioned. In the same manner, a pregnancy resource center intends to provide services to pregnant women, services intended to help her carry her baby to term.
Pregnant women are mothers, and resource centers that assist them with pregnancy tests, information about their unborn child, prenatal care and support to mother and child after the baby is born are fulfilling their purpose. These centers provide parenting classes, maternity and infant clothing, baby formula, diapers and a host of other services related to pregnancy, other than abortion and contraceptive services. There is nothing deceitful about that.
On the other hand, a “women’s reproductive clinic,” as many centers call themselves, usually are not about assisting women with reproduction, but rather preventing it or terminating it. If the Baltimore City Council truly wants “truth in advertising,” then all nonprofit clinics (which Planned Parenthood purports to be) should also have to provide information about the services they don’t provide: They don’t provide information about all the alternatives to abortion; they don’t provide information about all the consequences of abortion, including the potential side effects to a women’s physical health and mental health.
Ask the women who deal with the equivalent of post-traumatic stress from their abortions who have gone through a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat or other post-abortion counseling. Ask the women who have an increased risk of breast cancer due to ending pregnancies by abortion, according to a number of scientific studies. If the nonprofit pregnancy resource centers must post a sign about the information they are not telling their clients, it is only appropriate that all nonprofit health centers be required to live by the same rules.
It is time to tell the Baltimore City Council that this ordinance is bad law, and bad public policy. It is politically motivated and not in the interest of public health. Contact Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other members of the City Council and urge them to defeat Council Bill 09-0406.
If they cannot find it in their hearts to defeat this misguided bill, urge the council members to be fair: Amend the ordinance to include fitting language for Planned Parenthood clinics and other facilities that provide abortions and contraceptive services. In fairness, if a facility should provide information on the services they do not provide, the signs there could read: “We don’t provide love and compassion to mothers and babies.”
Gunty is associate publisher/editor of The Catholic Review.