Connecticut lawmakers passed a contentious bill Wednesday that prohibits limited pregnancy centers from using "deceptive advertising" about the pregnancy-related services they provide.
The bill, which now moves to Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont's desk, cleared the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on a mostly party-line vote of 87 to 56, following a lengthy debate that spanned much of the day. The legislation was previously passed in the state Senate.
Proposed in previous legislative sessions, advocates who contend the measure is needed to ensure women aren't deceived into thinking these typically faith-based centers are family planning clinics that provide abortion and other reproductive health care.
"A woman should not be lied to seeking legal health care in the state of Connecticut,'' said Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford.
Critics of the bill, however, contend it's an unnecessary overreach by state government and pro-abortion advocates that unfairly targets well-meaning organizations that want to help women, predicting it would be challenged in court.
"This bill is about using the strong arm of the government to steer people to one choice, to end pregnancies by abortion," said Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Granby.
Under the legislation, these centers, which do not directly provide abortions or provide referrals for abortions or emergency contraception, would be prohibited from making any deceptive statements about providing services they do not offer. The state Attorney General must notify centers in writing who violate the law. If they don't respond in 10 days, the Attorney General can seek a court injunction requiring, among other things, that the center disseminate corrective advertising.
Centers that violate the deceptive advertising prohibition could also face civil penalties. There are currently 25 centers in the state and Gilchrest stressed that not all use deceptive practices and the bill is about ensuring consistency.
Gilchrest said lawmakers heard from medical providers with patients who had been deceived by limited pregnancy centers in Connecticut, "delaying them care and causing them trauma."