September 20, 2018

After legal review, Hartford to enforce crisis-pregnancy center ordinance

HBJ File Photo
HBJ File Photo
Hartford City Hall, 550 Main St.

Hartford's new rules for "crisis pregnancy centers" in the city will take effect Oct. 1, following a four-month pause prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down an abortion-related law in California.

The Hartford ordinance aims to crack down on facilities, sometimes funded by religious groups, that mislead women about abortion and contraception options.

The ordinance requires pregnancy centers to notify -- via display signage in English and Spanish as well as online -- if they do not have a licensed medical provider on staff. They also must tell clients who to call to inquire about services that they don't have a licensed medical professional on-site to provide or supervise services, and are prohibited from knowingly making false, misleading or deceptive statements related to pregnancy services.

City councilors approved the ordinance late last year, and it was to take effect in July. However, the city chose to stall implementation because of a Supreme Court ruling that struck down on free speech grounds a California law requiring crisis pregnancy centers to tell clients about abortion options.

Mayor Luke Bronin's office said that the city's lawyers had reviewed the city's ordinance and compared it to California's struck-down law, determining that Hartford's was more narrowly crafted and could withstand a legal challenge.

The ordinance calls for a fine of $100 per day for violations.

"Our ordinance is based on the simple principle that women should be told the truth when they're making decisions about their bodies, their health, and their lives," Bronin said in a statement. "We have seen young women, often young women with few resources who don't have access to regular medical care, deceived and 'lured' away from women's health centers that offer the full range of reproductive healthcare. We should all agree that's wrong, no matter how you feel about abortion."

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