Testimony of Anna Bean, Outreach Coordinator, Lady Parts Justice League before the New York City Council Committee on Consumer Affairs regarding Enforcement of Local Law 17 of 2011 and the Regulation of Pregnancy Service Centers – November 15, 2017

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony to the New York City Council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs in support of enforcing Local Law 17 of 2011 and requiring Pregnancy Service Centers to disclose that they are not medical facilities, preventing deception and expediting access to time sensitive health care services.  

Lady Parts Justice League is a nonprofit organization in Brooklyn founded by Lizz Winstead, co-creator of the Daily Show. Through comedy, the League works to destigmatize abortion, and in partnership with organizations like the National Institute for Reproductive Health, supports campaigns to expand access to the full range of reproductive health services and options, including abortion, for women and pregnant people in NYC and across the country.

In the summer of 2017, we launched #ExposeFakeClinics, a campaign in partnership with more than 40 reproductive rights organizations and abortion providers across the country. We say “fake clinics” rather than Pregnancy Resource Centers or Crisis Pregnancy Centers because these places, in their own words, exist to deceive vulnerable pregnant women into coming through their doors in order to deter or prevent them from choosing abortion. They deliberately look like medical providers, and then provide medically inaccurate information or no medical information at all.

Through our #ExposeFakeClinics campaign, we give people tools to closely examine the websites of fake clinics in every single state—there are more than 4,000 fake clinics nationally, compared with only 780 real clinics that provide abortion services—and then use reviewing sites like Yelp and Google Business to leave accurate reviews so that people seeking information about their reproductive health care options in their community know just what they’re walking into.

Of the 108 fake clinics in New York State that we have reviewed, and those are only the ones we know about, several are in NYC. Few if any of those are complying with Local Law 17 of 2011 on their websites. Take, for example, Avail in Manhattan, which states on their website that they provide ultrasounds and “laboratory-quality hCG urine pregnancy tests” (the equivalent of any drugstore pregnancy test). Front and center on their website, they state:

We offer holistic care and practical resources, so that you can face the future with confidence and hope. Each year, tens of thousands of women in New York City face unexpected pregnancies. Avail exists to provide you with the services, space, and support you need to make a decision about an unexpected pregnancy-all in a confidential and professional environment.”

This sounds like you’re going to receive comprehensive counseling options at a medical clinic, does it not? Nowhere on their site does this fake clinic state, “This facility does not have a licensed medical provider on-site to provide or supervise all services”— in English or in Spanish.

Same goes for Pregnancy Resource Services on Staten Island. Their site states:

“At our center, we won't judge you or tell you what to do. We're here to provide you with a FREE lab quality pregnancy test and medically accurate information.  And, if your pregnancy test is positive, our trained staff will go over all of your options so that you can make an informed decision.”

And Pregnancy Help NYC on 14th Street, which claims:

“Our options counseling gives you the opportunity to sit down with a trained peer-counselor to consider your pregnancy options and get the information you need. You will receive clear and thoughtful education about pregnancy, abortion, parenting, and adoption. We want to help you move towards an informed decision with clarity and strength.”

Imagine facing an unplanned pregnancy, searching on Google for resources in your community to learn about all of your options, and coming upon that website. Sounds like a community health clinic, right? But once inside, vulnerable pregnant people give their personal information to unregulated individuals that are not legally required to keep pregnant people’s information private. Instead, as I know you’ve heard from all of the advocates who have been watching these facilities for a long time, they are lied to, shamed, and manipulated. It’s why this law was passed in the first place.

It’s time to get tough on this deception. We recommend the creation of a navigable and effective complaint mechanism, training for DCA Inspectors, and transparent enforcement procedures. Local Law 17 of 2011 must be enforced, or the deception will continue to disrupt the lives of New Yorkers.