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CURRENT ISSUE:  September 5, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Diocese offers new web site
Brentwood parish opens Community Life Center
SF supervisor targets
pregnancy center advertising

As the San Francisco Board of Supervisors returns from its summer recess, it is expected to consider an ordinance proposed by Supervisor Malia Cohen to prohibit limited services pregnancy centers from making false or misleading statements to the public about pregnancy-related services the centers offer or perform.

Cohen introduced the ordinance Aug. 2, right before the supervisors’ recess began. The ordinance is part of a campaign by NARAL Pro-Choice America to require crisis pregnancy centers to declare that they do not provide or offer referrals for abortion. NARAL is an acronym for National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

Ordinances similar to Cohen’s have passed in Baltimore, New York City and Austin, Texas. The U.S. District Court ruled in January that Baltimore’s ordinance violated pregnancy centers’ right to free speech. The city is appealing.

Among the organizations targeted by the ordinance proposed in San Francisco is First Resort, a self-described “pregnancy counseling women’s health clinic” with offices in San Francisco, Oakland and Redwood City.

Its CEO, Shari Plunkett, in a statement the day the legislation was introduced in San Francisco, said, “First Resort provides all clients with full disclosure on the types of services we provide. Unfortunately, we have not met with Supervisor Cohen, nor have we been provided a copy of the proposed legislation. We are confident that our clinic is a model and complies with local, state and federal laws.

“First Resort rejects in the strongest possible terms any representation that our advertising misleads women. We treat women with dignity and respect their right to choose. We welcome both Supervisor Cohen and City Attorney Herrera to tour our facilities and educate themselves about the services we provide.

“We look forward to a robust discussion about the appropriateness of this legislation and urge them not to test the constitutional boundaries of free speech.”

Maria Martinez-Mont, director of communications for First Resort, said NARAL’s campaign for municipal ordinances is not likely to stop in San Francisco. “We expect it to spread to Oakland and other cities,” she said.

Her organization hopes that even an “overwhelming pro-choice city” as San Francisco, “will respect the principles of free speech and the rights of women. We are hoping to persuade leaders to be fair.”

“The challenge, ironically, is politicians will have to respect women’s right to choose,” she said. “We are offering choice. This is another way of choice.”

She said when a potential client calls the First Resort call center, she is informed of service, and is told, “We don’t provide abortion or referral for abortion.”

At the center itself, she said, a woman cannot be seen by a nurse or a counselor without first signing a disclosure that states that First Resort does not provide abortion services.

The only service related to abortion that First Resort does provide, Martinez-Mont said, is post-abortion counseling. “We do serve women who do go through abortions,” she said. “We have repeat clients.”
Catholic San Francisco contributed to this report.

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