National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Federal appeals court considers challenge to Calif. law regulating CPCs

A federal appeals court on Tuesday heard arguments in a case challenging a California law (AB 775) that aims to prohibit antiabortion-rights crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) from spreading misinformation, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

According to the Chronicle, the judges during the hearing did not indicate how they would rule on the case (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/14).

Law details

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act into law in October 2015. It took effect Jan. 1. The law, which was introduced by Assembly members David Chiu (D) and Autumn Burke (D), expands protections in a 2011 San Francisco ordinance (212-11) that bars CPCs from disseminating misleading information.

The law requires licensed facilities that provide services related to pregnancy and family planning to let women know how and where they can access affordable and timely abortion, contraception and prenatal care services.

Further, the law requires unlicensed facilities that provide pregnancy- and family planning-related services to tell patients the facilities are not licensed and that they have no staff members who are licensed providers. Such facilities are required to disseminate a notice to patients at the facility and in any digital or print advertising materials stating, "This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services."

CPCs that do not comply with the law are subject to a $500 fine for the first offense and a $1,000 penalty for any offense thereafter. The state attorney general, county councils and city attorneys have the authority to enforce the law.

CPCs have filed several legal challenges against the law, four of which were rejected.

Following an investigation that found six of the eight CPCs in the Los Angeles area were violating the law, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer in May said his office will start actively enforcing the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/26).

CPC, state arguments

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from the state and from lawyers representing several CPCs, including the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates.

During arguments, lawyers representing CPCs claimed that the law violates the centers' right to free speech by requiring CPCs to convey a government message.

State Deputy Attorney General Noreen Skelly (D) rejected that argument. She said the law requires CPCs to disclose "neutral, objectively factual information" about access to abortion care and "takes no position on whether carrying a [pregnancy] to term is better than abortion."

Judge John Owens also questioned the CPC attorneys on the argument, asking how the California law is more oppressive than requirements mandating that restaurants disclose the calorie content of their food. According to the Chronicle, Owens also asked Skelly whether a restaurant selling burgers could be ordered to inform customers where they could access a healthier menu. Skelly rejected the comparison.

Skelly also disputed an argument from Francis Manion, one of the lawyers representing the CPCs, who said the state could launch an advertising campaign to convey the information rather than requiring the CPCs to do so. Skelly said statewide ad campaigns are not as effective as notices from providers, as there is just a "small window of time" to deliver the information to a pregnant woman. Skelly added that roughly half of the more than 700,000 pregnancies reported annually in the state are unintended (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/14).