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Baltimore City Council Passes Bill to Keep Pregnancy Centers Honest

November 30, 2009

In a pioneering move, the Baltimore City Council passed a provision last week requiring four of the city's crisis pregnancy centers to post signs stating they do not provide abortion referrals. Awaiting a response or veto by pro-choice Mayor Sheila Dixon — if Dixon does nothing, the legislation stands — the bill orders centers to post the notices in English and Spanish, and issues a $150 daily fine if the signs are not visible. As Slate points out, two studies in the last three years revealed the level of misinformation proliferated by such centers — often advertised as "pregnancy clinics" — which offer counseling, clothing and food for expectant mothers, but deliberately steer them away from abortion. A 2006 investigation by the office of Representative Harry Waxman (D-Calif) determined that 87 percent of contacted crisis centers provided false information about abortion's ties to breast cancer, infertility or mental illness. A 2008 study by NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland investigated 11 centers in the state, 90 percent of which would discuss only abstinence or "natural family planning," and every center evaluated made unfounded claims about the risk of suicide, breast cancer or infertility. Baltimore is the first U.S. city to pass such an ordinance which, in the words of Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, would be "a step towards making sure that women have the information they need to make the right decision for their health and their future." Contact Mayor Dixon and show your support for this groundbreaking legislation towards informed reproductive freedom.

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