Women with unwanted pregnancies face what, for many, will be the most difficult decision of their lives.
And the “free abortion counseling” advertised online may sound like just what they need: an honest discussion of their options.
But the crisis pregnancy centers that often pitch this counseling aren’t what they appear. They’re not abortion clinics. They’re not community health centers.
They’re an arm of the antiabortion movement, built to dissuade.
The staff at these facilities have the First Amendment right to say what they wish about abortion. But women weighing visits deserve to know what they’ll encounter inside.
Recently, state lawmakers took a modest, if important, step toward building awareness — approving $1 million for a public education campaign about the difference between crisis pregnancy centers and legitimate reproductive health care clinics that offer a full suite of services, including abortion.
Departing Governor Charlie Baker, a self-styled champion of abortion rights with a mixed record on the issue, vetoed the measure. And lawmakers can’t override since they’re in informal, end-of-the-year sessions. But the state Legislature can and should move swiftly to approve the funding next year. And incoming governor Maura Healey, who has raised the alarm about crisis pregnancy centers as the state’s attorney general, should sign it after she starts her new job.
Conservatives have labeled the proposed public education effort a “smear campaign.” But it’s no smear to point out the sector’s deceptive practices.
Crisis pregnancy centers often locate near abortion clinics in a bid to draw in unwitting patients. And they provide inaccurate medical information and incomplete care.
That can be dangerous.
Kara Kimball, a chief resident obstetrician and gynecologist at University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, told the editorial board about a patient who recently showed up in the hospital’s emergency department.
After a positive pregnancy test at home, she’d visited a crisis pregnancy center — drawn by the promise of a free ultrasound. There, Kimball says, she got inaccurate information about her pregnancy. And the staff failed to refer her for an emergency consultation, as they should have.
Over a week later, she showed up at UMass Memorial with a severe hemorrhage. Fortunately, she survived. But the lesson, Kimball says, was clear. Visitors to crisis pregnancy centers aren’t getting the information they need.
The debate over the public awareness campaign comes at an especially fraught moment.
In June, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and threw the issue of abortion rights to the states.
That’s put a special burden on blue states to shore up their own residents’ rights and provide a refuge for women from redder locales.
Massachusetts has mostly met the test. Lawmakers included $2 million for abortion access in the budget they passed this summer — including the first-ever direct state spending on abortions. And in a recently approved economic development bill, they provided an additional $16.5 million for reproductive health.
Baker, to his credit, signed that spending into law. But he vetoed the $1 million provision for the public education campaign. And he offered a weak explanation — noting that the state already works with a nonprofit to publish a list of the state’s roughly 30 crisis pregnancy centers.
Beacon Hill, which has been at the forefront of protecting abortion rights, should stay out front on this issue. Bay Staters deserve better than just a list.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.