California bill targets state's abortion-alternative pregnancy clinics

San Francisco — California's 71 abortion-alternative pregnancy medical clinics may be forced to inform pregnant women considering their services that publicly funded programs that provide abortion are available to them if a fast-moving bill becomes law.

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.

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 Monday, it had had a second reading and a third reading was ordered.

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"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.

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