Oregon’s state senate is considering an unconstitutional bill that would interfere with the vital work of pregnancy resource centers—and if the legislation passes, it could create a precedent for even worse attacks on pro-life charities and individuals.
Pro-abortion groups have been attempting to legislate against pregnancy centers for years, usually through laws that require pregnancy centers to disclose that they do not provide abortions. Such legislation never requires abortion facilities to disclose what services they don’t offer (e.g., support for women who give birth). The pro-abortion objective is to give pregnant women the false impression that abortion centers offer everything that pregnancy centers do and more. By driving women away from supportive pregnancy centers and toward abortion businesses, they hope to increase abortion profits.
Fortunately, the courts have held that these laws are unconstitutional. Under the First Amendment, states can only require disclosures in a commercial context, to protect people from fraud. Since pregnancy resource centers aren’t trying to part anyone from their money—they are charities that offer all their services free of charge—the government has no legitimate reason to interfere with their speech.
But that isn’t stopping abortion advocates in Oregon, who have proposed yet another bill, SB 490, attacking pregnancy centers. On top of its unconstitutionality, SB 490 has three provisions that are especially outrageous.
First, SB 490 would require pregnancy centers to give disclosures not once, not twice, but up to five times for every client: on advertisements, on the center website, at the door, in the waiting room, and once more before she can receive services. Abortion supporters are arguing that SB 490’s five-time disclosure rule merely implements “standard, uncontroversial health-care requirements.” These are, of course, the same abortion advocates who abhor informed consent laws that require just one disclosure of abortion’s nature and risks before a woman undergoes an irreversible procedure.
Second, SB 490 is full of vague language that will put pregnancy centers in constant fear of legal problems. Disclosures must be “conspicuous” enough for regulators. And if the pregnancy center gets it wrong, there are fines of up to $10,000 a week!
Third, SB 490’s purported exemption for medical centers is practically non-existent. To qualify, the center must “employ” a medical professional, even though pregnancy centers typically rely on volunteers so that they can offer free services.
Moreover, this non-volunteer medical professional must be on site whenever a medical service is administered, and SB 490 defines “medical services” to include pregnancy options counseling. That’s right: simply talking to someone about parenting, adoption, and abortion—what caring pro-life people across the country do on a regular basis—is a “medical service” requiring the presence of a doctor or nurse!
Oregon has attempted anti-pregnancy-center legislation before. But this time around, it is dangerously close to passage. SB 490 has left the Health Care and Human Services Committee and is now in the Senate Rules Committee, which has the authority to work on Senate bills outside of the usual timeframe.
Americans United for Life will continue to keep a close eye on this legislation and work alongside other pro-life organizations to defeat it. You can help by contacting Oregon state senators in opposition to SB 490.
For Americans United for Life’s complete analysis of SB 490, click here.