Senate Bill Targets Pregnancy Centers

“They [abortions] really mess you up down there so you can never have children.” “Using a condom does not protect you from AIDS or pregnancy.” “The increase in abortions worldwide has caused a sharp increase in breast cancer.”

These are all falsehoods that volunteers from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon (PPAO) heard when they visited crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in Oregon. CPCs are unregulated centers often run by anti-choice volunteers without medical training, PPAO says, but Oregon Senate Bill 490 would require CPCs to clearly disclose what services they provide and prohibit them from disclosing health information about a patient without the patient’s written consent. Oregon privacy law HIPAA already requires this of health care providers, but CPCs aren’t categorized as health care providers.

PPAO Executive Director Laura Terrill Patten says that SB 490 would create consumer protections especially important to women who might be in a vulnerable situation. While opponents have objected that the bill infringes on their free speech, Terrill Patten says that since CPCs use misleading words like “options” and “health center” in their names, it’s only providing much-needed transparency, not infringing on free speech. “Our goal is not to shut them down; they have a right to exist,” she says.

The Oregon Health Authority would have oversight, and CPCs in violation would receive a warning and could be subjected to a fine. The Eugene-Springfield area has three CPCs, according to PPAO: First Way and two Lane Pregnancy Center locations.

Women looking for a free pregnancy test aren’t the only ones harmed by misinformation, says PPAO Communications and Fundraising Manager Jimmy Radosta. “When these centers discourage women from using safe, effective methods of birth control, they endanger public health,” he says. The Oregon Medical Association and Oregon Nurses Association both support the bill.

“We’ve heard from more than 13,000 Oregonians who support this bill — and that’s from every corner of the state,” Terrill Patten says. She says it’s confusing to her why there’s any opposition, especially when some CPCs already follow these standards voluntarily.

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