"We’re not going to lose the battle and lose the war and have to pay for it."
With those words from Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, the Austin City Council voted unanimously today to repeal our old Crisis Pregnancy Center ordinance, and then unanimously passed a revised ordinance intended to survive scrutiny in ongoing legal battles.
Back in 2010, Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring Crisis Pregnancy Centers to post a sign on their doors stating that the businesses don’t provide abortions, refer for abortions, or provide FDA-licensed birth control, and that there is no licensed medical professional on site. Since the passing of the 2010 ordinance, other cities’ CPC regulation efforts have come under increased scrutiny, and many have been struck down. Here in Austin, a group of plaintiffs that operate the centers and generally oppose abortions sued the City, claiming that the ordinance — which simply requires CPCs to state what services they do not provide — violated their First Amendment rights.
Today, Council considered a revised ordinance, sponsored by Council Members Bill Spelman and Mike Martinez, that removed language from the original that was not likely to stand muster in the courts. (Read a preview of this issue here.) Council repealed the old ordinance—we cannot have two contradictory ordinances on the books—and then considered a new ordinance. The new ordinance requires a sign that doesn’t make reference to abortions or birth control. It is strictly a disclosure that there is no licensed healthcare professional on site. That’s what was determined to be most likely to stand up in court.
The absurdity of the situation is that CPC’s don’t have to be licensed. Taxi cabs, nail salons, food trailers, pedi-cabbers, even fishermen have to be licensed, but any anti-choice group can set up shop to intimidate and misinform women into carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. Many of them also receive tremendous amounts of funding from the state. That’s right — our tax dollars are being used to help these organizations intimidate women and provide incorrect information about abortion, pregnancy, and women’s health.
[NB: more than people who identify as “women” need and want access to abortion care.]