Montgomery Council Approves Regulation Requiring Pregnancy Centers in County
To Disclose Actual Scope of Their Services
Measure Requires Pregnancy Centers to Disclose by Sign if They Do Not Have Licensed Medical Professional on Staff
ROCKVILLE, Md., February 2, 2010—The Montgomery County Council, acting as the County’s Board of Health, today approved a regulation that requires all County pregnancy centers that do not have a licensed medical professional on staff to notify clients by posting at least one sign in their waiting room. The regulation, whose chief sponsor is Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large), also requires the signs to say that the Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health car provider.
The original resolution applied only to Limited Service Pregnancy Resource Centers that do not refer their clients for abortion or comprehensive contraceptive services, which are also known as Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). However, the regulation adopted today by a 7-2 vote was amended by the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee to include all pregnancy centers in the County. In addition to Councilmember Trachtenberg, regulation co-sponsors Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Nancy Navarro, and Councilmember Valerie Ervin, voted in favor of the regulation. Councilmembers Phil Andrews and Mike Knapp voted against it.
Montgomery County is the first local jurisdiction in the nation to have such an action approved by its board of health. “Nothing is more important than the protection of the health and well-being of women in Montgomery County,” said Councilmember Trachtenberg, who is a member of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee. “Requiring full disclosure of pregnancy centers is critical.”
The regulation approved today also amends the original regulation’s enforcement provisions to:
• Remove the provision indicating that each day a violation of the regular exists is a separate offense
• Remove the provision allowing “any affected party” to file suit to enjoin repeated violations
• Require the County’s Department of Health and Human Services to issue a written notice to a center violating the regulation before issuing a citation
The amended regulation applies to any pregnancy center that provides information about pregnancy-related services for a fee or as a free service.
Councilmember Trachtenberg said that the regulation is needed because some pregnancy centers often provide false and misleading information to women. She said that CPCs often tell clients that abortions make future pregnancy impossible; that abortions and oral contraceptives cause breast cancer; and that condoms are ineffective in preventing pregnancy and STDs. Overall, she said that CPCs often discourage women from seeking contraception or abortion.
A 2006 report by Congressman Henry Waxman of California entitled, “False and Misleading Health Information Provided by Federally Funded Pregnancy Resource Centers,” stated that during an investigation of 23 CPCs that received federal grants, “20 of the 23 centers (87 percent) provided false or misleading information about the health effects of abortion.”
Pregnancy resource centers received approximately $1 million through the Compassion Capital Fund, created in 2002 as a component of the Bush Administration’s faith-based initiative, according to the report. The report also said that CPCs received more than $24 million in Community-Based Abstinence Education funds between 2001 and 2005, and at least $6 million from abstinence funding provided to states.
Among those who have said they supported the regulation are the Montgomery County Commission on Women, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, the D.C. Abortion Fund (DCAF), Potomac Family Planning, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Abortion Federation and the National Institute for Reproductive Health. In addition, the measure is supported by Susan Wood, who is an associate professor of Health Policy and of Environmental and Occupational Health for the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and the executive director of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health, and Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women.