By Christina Gray
Catholic News Service
SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — California medical clinics offering pregnant women alternatives to abortion may be forced to inform their potential clients that publicly funded abortions are available to them.
If a fast-moving bill becomes law, it will require the state’s 71 abortion-alternative clinics to give out abortion and family planning information to pregnant women interested in the clinics’ own services.
The Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency Act is needed to ensure all women have knowledge and access to a full range of publicly funded reproductive health care options, according to the bill’s authors, Democratic Assembly members David Chiu, of San Francisco, and Autumn Burke, of Los Angeles.
But Catholic pro-life leaders and the directors of pregnancy medical clinics and pregnancy resource centers in California, which offer free prenatal care to women but do not refer them to abortion services, said the bill specifically and unfairly targets them.
“What this bill does in a nutshell is to force crisis pregnancy centers to publicize abortion,” Vicki Evans, the archdiocese’s Respect Life coordinator, told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper.
Opponents of the measure, also known as A.B. 775, have set up a website, http://stopab775now.com, and a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ab775info.
On April 28, the Assembly Committee on Judiciary passed the bill by a vote of 7 to 3. Also called the Reproductive FACT Act, A.B. 775 was referred to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations. As of May 11, it had had a second reading and a third reading scheduled for May 14 was cancelled. Pro-life leaders said they were waiting to see if the measure would go to the Assembly floor May 18 or May 21.
“This bill is about abortion, plain and simple,” said Robin Strom, executive director of Marin Pregnancy Clinic, one of the licensed medical clinics that would be affected if the bill becomes law. Strom said the clinic, though not Catholic-run, is “life affirming,” offering women free pregnancy testing and prenatal care but not birth control or referrals for abortion services.
Standing in the entryway of the Novato clinic, Strom pointed to a spot on the wall behind a glass door where if A.B. 775 passes, she may have to post a sign notifying anyone walking into the clinic that the state has programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to family planning services including prenatal care and abortion.
Leaders of other crisis pregnancy clinics providing abortion alternatives say that AB 775 is not only unconstitutional, it’s insulting to women.
“Women are smart,” reads a website aimed at stopping the measure. “They know they have pregnancy options and they know where to find them. California should stay out of women’s reproductive decision-making process.”
A.B. 775 has been amended four times since it was introduced March 26. If the bill moves through the Assembly to the governor and is not vetoed, it could become law Jan. 1.
– – –
Gray is on the staff of Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.