Abortion Rights Groups Push to Regulate Crisis Pregnancy Centers

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Members of the City Council and abortion rights proponents are accusing so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" of providing false information to women in an effort to steer them away from abortions and contraception.

The group NARAL surveyed 16 centers and found 18 percent of counselors claimed, incorrectly, that abortions lead to a higher risk of breast cancer. The group also says 20 percent of counselors stressed abstinence as the only responsible form of birth control.

City Council member Jessica Lappin plans to introduce a bill to regulate the centers in New York City, which she says masquerade as health clinics. "They are preying on scared and vulnerable women. Women who are facing very painful and difficult decisions and they mislead and manipulate them," Lappin said.

The legislation would require the centers to post signs disclosing that they don't provide abortions or contraception and make it clear when there's no licensed medical professional on staff.

At least one chain of centers is upfront about its affiliation with the anti-abortion movement. On its Web site, the Expectant Mother Care Pregnancy Center writes at the top of the page: "Fighting for Life in NYC -- the abortion capital of America."

The Midtown Pregnancy Support Center, another crisis pregnancy center, says it already informs clients that it won't make referrals or recommend abortions. In a written statement, the organization says it would be unfairly singled out by the proposed bill.

Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, is a proponent of the legislation and complains that the centers often open up near their clinics and try to lure clients away.

According to Lappin, there are close to two dozen centers in the city.

The Department of Consumer Affairs would be in charge of enforcing the proposed bill and fines would start at $200 and go as high as $2,500 for not posting signs.