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THE ARGUMENT

The Argument: Should Massachusetts adopt legislation barring deceptive ads by pregnancy crisis centers?

YES


Kristen Strezo

Somerville city councilor at large

Kristen StrezoSharona Jacobs

When I introduced Somerville’s new ordinance barring deceptive advertising by crisis pregnancy centers (there are none in the city right now), I knew that as the first city or town in Massachusetts to take on these facilities, we were heading into uncharted territory. So I focused on what we could do municipally to protect my constituents.

But we need the state to provide more oversight over these centers, which outnumber abortion clinics nationally by three to one.

The crisis pregnancy center business model — focused on religious ideology — is to siphon pregnant people from abortion clinics and convince them to carry a pregnancy to term through whatever-it-takes tactics: deception, inaccurate medical claims, false advertising, stall techniques. It’s legal. It’s unethical.

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A study in the International Journal of Women’s Health called CPCs a “unique and disconcerting hybrid of anti-choice activism, religious propagandism and pseudo-medical practice.”

Crisis pregnancy centers offer free pregnancy tests and sonograms. But in a recent consumer advisory, Attorney General Maura Healey warned that “CPCs are NOT typically staffed by licensed doctors or nurses, even though some people who work at CPCs may try to look the part, for example, by wearing a white coat.” Moreover, these centers collect private information from women, but the vast majority of them do not have to adhere to state or federal medical privacy laws, according to the Women’s Media Center.

Many crisis pregnancy centers offer resources like free diapers and baby clothes. But parents often have to jump through hoops to receive them — like only “earning” these items by attending bible classes or abstinence seminars, according to a report by The Alliance: State Advocates for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. We need to ask centers about these carrot-on-a-stick offers: How many diapers a month do parents actually get and for how long?

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Massachusetts must rein in this industry. More regulations will help ensure the creed “Do no harm” prevails. Efforts began this summer with the attorney general’s advisory. Federally, Senator Elizabeth Warren cofiled legislation designed to “crack down on false advertising” by crisis pregnancy centers, according to her office.

The people of the Commonwealth deserve accurate information when making important medical decisions. So I call on all state and municipal officials to take bipartisan action and protect constituents from the misinformation and deceptive tactics of crisis pregnancy centers.

NO

Teresa Larkin

Executive director, Your Options Medical, in Revere

Teresa Larkin

When a woman faces an unexpected pregnancy, her first reaction is often fear and confusion. Most likely she will enter the terms “pregnancy” or” abortion” into a search engine — which does not mean she is committed to either option but is exploring her choices.

Pregnancy care centers like ours are a source of information for women who face an unplanned pregnancy and may have limited knowledge about pregnancy or abortion. By offering pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and options information, we provide a woman the starting point to begin her decision-making process.

Giving a woman the opportunity to consider all three of the options — parenting, adoption, or abortion — is empowering. These services are provided free through the generosity of private donors and do not cost the Massachusetts taxpayers anything.

Legislating the language that pregnancy centers use will create a hindrance to pregnant women seeking information and support as they face a life-changing decision. Medically informed consent is fundamental to womanhood in free society.

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Too many women feel compelled to have an abortion because of obstacles such as lack of insurance, family support, financial resources, or a supportive team around them. The staff and volunteers at pregnancy resource centers focus on the very practical ways that help women successfully parent or release a child for adoption no matter what challenging circumstances exist.

Additionally, centers provide a service no one else does — supporting them after an abortion. Many women experience emotional pain following an abortion procedure and we offer a safe place for them to grieve or process their emotions.

The trigger point for outcry around pregnancy care centers falls squarely around the recent Dobbs decision. Opponents of that decision clearly feel our centers are a threat to women. Are they? If a woman is pregnant, abortion remains a legal option in most states, including Massachusetts. We recognize it is a choice for many women that we serve. But we believe it’s important they have a chance to engage in open and honest dialogue in making that decision.

Having no choice but abortion robs women of autonomy and true choice. And no woman should be denied the opportunity to receive information and support that pregnancy centers offer if she elects to receive it. Isn’t this the true definition of pro-choice?

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact laidler@globe.com.

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