On Monday at 1:30 p.m., the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness will hold its first public hearing on HB 1366 (senate version here), a bill that would require the state's roughly 46 Christian-powered pregnancy centers—also known as limited service pregnancy centers, or crisis pregnancy centers—to be up front with clients about their services.
Basically, it would force pro-life pregnancy centers to actually tell clients their that they don't provide any real medical services, just over-the-counter pregnancy tests you can buy in any drug store (along with free religious-themed medical advice!). The centers would also be forced to disclose that they don't provide comprehensive birth control information (birth control is the Devil's candy) and they won't offer abortion referrals (abortion is the Devil's Nativity). Finally, the centers would be forced to deliver timely pregnancy test results and keep client medical records confidential—something they're not currently required to do.
As Eli mentioned a few days ago, the bill basically makes it harder for anti-choice activists to masquerade as evenhanded health care providers. Sounds reasonable, right? But a nearly identical bill failed last year, in part because of staunch opposition from pro-life groups. So if you're a lady or you simply love lady parts, you should testify for this bill (or at least write a supportive letter).
"These centers look from the outside like they're full-blown women’s medical centers but they're not," explains Alison Mondi, a spokeswoman with NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, which is lobbying hard for the bill's passage. For example, Mondi says that even though these centers collect medical information, they're not required to keep their client information private like a doctor's office would be because they're not medically licensed. "People are giving up their personal sexual history—their medical history—to volunteers instead of medical professionals," Mondi says. "And the centers can do whatever they like with it, tell whoever they like."
There's one huge difference between this year's bill and last: The current iteration doesn't hold pro-life pregnancy centers accountable for giving women medically and scientifically accurate information about birth control and abortion. Which means the centers can continue spreading heinous pro-life myths, like abortion gives you breast cancer.
Allowing pro-life centers to continue telling women that AIDS races through condoms like rice through a tennis racket sounds like a huge setback in the bill's efficacy, but pro-choice groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood swear it isn't.
"Right now, we don't have a way to enforce [that language]," says Jennifer Allen, a spokeswoman with Planned Parenthood Votes WA, who explains that the bill's medically and scientifically accurate proviso is the main reason it failed last year. "It's a huge problem for women—they're told this misinformation—but at this point we don't know the best way to go about solving it. And when it comes down to it, we don't want to wait on providing some protections for women."
Allen adds that the holding these centers accountable for delivering medically and scientifically accurate information is still on the radar of pro-choice groups. "This isn't an issue we're giving up on," she says.
Once again, if you can't take a spontaneous road trip to Olympia on Monday to support this worthy bill, you can write your legislators here or call the WA legislative hotline and leave them a charming, detailed message (1-800-562-6000).