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Council Passes Bill to Regulate Anti-Abortion Clinics

By Ben Fractenberg

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CITY HALL — The City Council voted to pass legislation Wednesday that would force limited service pregnancy centers to disclose the fact that they do not counsel women to have abortions or perform terminations at their clinics.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Upper East Side City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, passed by a margin of 39-9.

Ahead of the afternoon vote, council members and pro-choice advocates rallied on the steps of City Hall once again and said the centers are actively trying to persuade women not to have abortions, while posing as more neutral health care facilities.

"Our goal here is not to shut down these pregnancy service centers. We just want to keep them honest and tell women the kind of services they provide," said Quinn. "We want women to make informed decision about the health care services they are seeking and not be duped by false advertising."

Quinn also said the centers misleadingly label themselves as health clinics even though they do not provide abortions, contraception or employ doctors.

The legislation will require the pregnancy centers to advertise whether they have a licensed medical provider on site, provide referrals for prenatal care and abortions and provide emergency contraception.

But proponents of the centers say they are upfront about their position on abortion and that the bill would infringe on their First Amendment rights.

"It squelches peoples' right to free speech," said Pastor Bill Devlin, who is with the Manhattan Bible Church. "It actually tells a volunteer faith councilor what they can and cannot say."

Devlin, who said there about 30 of these centers in the city, said opponents of the bill were prepared to challenge it legally.

EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers founder and president Christopher Slattery, who runs a dozen CPCs across the city, has said he will sue over the legislation.

Quinn said the bill was not meant to stifle free speech but make sure the centers are being honest about what they do.

"It is never okay for people to pretend they are running a medical facility when they are not."