California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta is suing controversial clinics known as crisis pregnancy centers over alleged false advertisements about “abortion pill reversal,” a procedure considered experimental and opposed by major medical organizations.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, is the latest attempt by state Democratic leaders to rein in faith-based anti-abortion clinics that have so far escaped legislative attempts at stricter regulation despite health warnings about the procedure.
Bonta called these centers “predatory,” alleging they “take advantage” of vulnerable pregnant patients by making false promises. It asks a judge to block “any further dissemination of the misleading claims,” citing violations of California’s laws on false advertising and unfair competition.
“Those grappling with the complex decision to have an abortion deserve support and trusted advice — not lies and misinformation,” said Bonta, who held a news conference in Oakland on Thursday.
The so-called reversal, touted by pregnancy centers across the state and country, involves ingesting the hormone progesterone after a patient takes a dose of abortion pills. This practice has been deemed “unethical” and “not supported by science” by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In 2019, UC Davis researchers halted a study of the practice after three of the 12 women in the medical experiment were sent to the hospital for “very heavy bleeding.”
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court, names the anti-abortion organization Heartbeat International and RealOptions Obria Medical Clinics, a Bay Area chain, as defendants, alleging they violated state law. State by falsely advertising the procedure as safe and effective.
The religious crisis pregnancy center industry has long been accused of misleading women about their services in order to steer them away from abortion. Some California centers advertise “pre-abortion screenings” but do not provide abortions, and promote misinformation about the procedure that has been debunked by the American Cancer Society and other leading medical organizations.
But supporters of the centers say they are an asset to communities, pointing to resources available to parents in need, such as diapers and car seats, as well as some health screenings. Some clinics in the state have denied claims that they pressured their patients into abortions or intentionally misled them, and say they have the right to object to the procedure, as do d Others do it to support her.
Even in liberal California, home to the nation’s strictest abortion access protections, past legislative attempts to more strictly regulate crisis pregnancy centers have failed, in part because of legal arguments over freedom of expression and religion protected by the Constitution.
Clinics across the state that advertise “abortion pill reversal” are licensed to operate by the California Department of Public Health. The RealOptions centers named in Thursday’s lawsuit are state-licensed community clinics.
In 2018, the Supreme Court blocked enforcement of a California law that would have required clinics to inform patients that the state offers subsidized abortions, birth control and prenatal care.
Known as the Reproductive Freedom, Responsibility, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act, the bill was sponsored by Vice President Kamala Harris, then the state’s attorney general.
The court’s opinion was supported by conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, who said the law unfairly targets faith-based centers by requiring them to provide a “government-written script” about the services they oppose.
Earlier this year, legislation to limit crisis pregnancy centers quietly stalled in the state Legislature. Opponents of the bill, including the California Catholic Conference, said the proposals were biased, favoring one reproductive health choice over another.
There are at least 165 emergency pregnancy centers in California, and they outnumber abortion clinics, according to a report released last year by the Alliance, a women’s rights collaborative.
The report says many centers in the state make “misleading and misleading” claims, do not have a physician on staff and offer non-diagnostic ultrasounds that are not recognized as a medical service but as a “souvenir.” or a memory.
Colorado became the first state in the country to approve a law banning abortion pill reversal earlier this year, but its enforcement is on hold due to an ongoing lawsuit.
Los Angeles Times