Right now, the Illinois House and Senate have just passed a bill which would go after pregnancy centers in a way unmatched even by California and Massachusetts. SB 1909 attempts to criminalize, as fraud, attempts by a PRC to convince a woman to choose them over an abortion facility or not to have an abortion.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Here’s the relevant portion of the bill:
(b) A limited services pregnancy center shall not engage
in unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts
or practices, including the use or employment of any
deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or
misrepresentation, or the concealment, suppression, or
omission of any material fact, with the intent that others
rely upon the concealment, suppression, or omission of such
(1) to interfere with or prevent an individual from
seeking to gain entry or access to a provider of abortion
or emergency contraception;
(2) to induce an individual to enter or access the
limited services pregnancy center;
(3) in advertising, soliciting, or otherwise offering
pregnancy-related services; or
(4) in conducting, providing, or performing
That doesn’t look bad or unfair, you might say. Unfair practices are bad, deception is bad, fraud is bad; what’s the big problem?
Here’s the problem: a pro-choice legislature that is so biased against pregnancy centers that it invented a pejorative term for them (yes, these are supposed to be adults) is the arbiter of what counts as true or false for the purposes of “deception” and “fraud.” Would you like an example of just how bad that is? Here it is from the Illinois Legislature:
“The advertisements and information given by these organizations provide grossly inaccurate or misleading information overstating the risks associated with abortion, including conveying untrue claims that abortion causes cancer or infertility and concealing data that shows the risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than the risk of death associated with an abortion” (emphasis mine).
Oh, would you look at that. The Illinois Legislature is trying to codify the false claims of a single debunked study, while accusing pro-lifers who refuse to say it’s true of fraud. That’s right; they are hoping to legally force pregnancy centers to tell misinformation to their clients.
As a refresher, this false—but often cited—statistic comes from a 2012 study by Raymond and Grimes. The methodology of the study is painfully flawed, and the data is contradicted by higher-quality science. For a very deep explanation of all of this, read our article on why abortion isn’t 14 times safer than childbirth.
Unfortunately, the pro-choice lobby refuses to abandon an unreplicated, faulty study because the claims they get to make from it are just too good to pass up. Why tell the truth when you can just print “abortion is 14 times safer” in the text of your bill and require pregnancy centers to tell that to their clients?
Oh, right, let me back up. The issue with this bill is not just that telling truths that contradict the received pro-choice narrative would be considered fraudulent, but refusing to tell falsehoods to clients would be illegally withholding a “material fact”—even though that “fact” is a fiction!
Let’s do a little comparison. When I read this, I immediately thought of another unfounded claim based on a debunked study. The claim that “abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth” is on the same evidentiary level as the claim that vaccines cause autism.[Tweet this!] There’s a famous study from 1998 that linked autism incidence with the MMR vaccine, which has since been discredited because of methodological errors (both intentional and unintentional).
The fact that it was retracted by The Lancet in 2010 is wholly irrelevant to this analysis. Both articles were initially published, passing through a peer-review process which declined to address their errors. Retraction requires multiple people in positions of authority to exercise intellectual honesty; there is a lot more social incentive to defend the popular pro-choice line at all costs than the unpopular anti-vaccination cause. And the Raymond and Grimes study is only 11 years old; the autism study wasn’t retracted until it was 12 years old. But most importantly, both pro-choice people and anti-vaccination activists are pointing to an overtly flawed study as a basis for false claims and using this appeal to a false authority as a cudgel against their opponents.
Scientifically, the “14 times safer” people are on the same level as the vaccine skeptics. But only one of these two groups has significant political power and is attempting to enforce its erroneous beliefs as law.
Imagine the vaccine skeptics, in 2009, gained control of a state legislature. Imagine that they passed a law, citing the already falsified but not yet retracted autism study, requiring pediatricians to avoid inducing parents to give their children vaccines by misrepresenting or failing to disclose material facts, such as (so the legislature defined it) the link between autism and the MMR vaccine—and the pediatrician would be legally obligated to tell this to every single parent. In this hypothetical world, pediatricians are still “free” to do what they believe is best for their patients, but they are required to tell lies to their patients before giving them vaccines or face the full penalty of the law.
This imaginary world might become very real for the pro-life workers in Illinois. The pro-choice legislature is trying to mandate disinformation, to force honest people to tell lies in order to provide counseling, free ultrasounds, clothing, diapers, and formula to expecting mothers.[Tweet this!]
But the real-world version of our imaginary scenario is actually even worse. Within the text of the law this bill would modify, there is a provision for state attorneys to use the full power of the law against people before they’ve even violated the terms of the law. Take a look at this:
“Whenever the Attorney General or a State’s Attorney has reason to believe that any person is using, has used, or is about to use any method, act or practice declared by this Act to be unlawful, and that proceedings would be in the public interest, he or she may bring an action in the name of the People of the State against such person to restrain by preliminary or permanent injunction the use of such method, act or practice. The Court, in its discretion, may exercise all powers necessary, including but not limited to: injunction; revocation, forfeiture or suspension of any license, charter, franchise, certificate or other evidence of authority of any person to do business in this State; appointment of a receiver; dissolution of domestic corporations or association suspension or termination of the right of foreign corporations or associations to do business in this State; and restitution.”(815 ILCS 505/7(a), emphasis mine).
So it’s not enough for the state to try to compel pregnancy centers to spread pro-choice disinformation as a condition of doing business; this bill would empower Illinois to shut down every pregnancy center in advance based on the accusation that they are about to refuse to lie to their clients.[Tweet this!]
If you live in Illinois , please call the Governor and tell him to veto or decline to sign this bill that seeks to enact disinformation as law and punish citizens who refuse to lie when serving women and families in need.
If you live outside of Illinois, spread the news of what their legislature is attempting. Mobilize other pro-life people you know, share this story on social media and with any media contacts you might have; you can write an op-ed, even if it’s just in your local newspaper. People sometimes think pro-life people exaggerate how bad pro-choice laws and the like are; they need to see for themselves just how Orwellian this would-be law is.
If you’re pro-choice, I expect you to understand what’s at stake when the state believes it can compel its citizens to lie. You have better arguments for your view than the faulty claim that abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth. After all, even if abortion is somewhat more dangerous than childbirth, the pro-choice position is that the woman should be free to choose what risks she takes on to pursue her own ends, within reason. You don’t need this false talking point to make your case. Granted, I think your arguments ultimately fail; I’m pro-life, after all. But you have honest arguments you can make, and it’s your duty to use them instead of using state power to dissolve charities, revoke certifications, and fine people if they refuse to nod along with falsehoods.
As a pro-lifer, I don’t want to compel agreement or belief in the pro-life position. I want to compel people not to kill unborn humans, but that doesn’t require anyone to be forced to say they’re pro-life when they’re not. I want to convince, not compel, people to say what I believe to be true about abortion. Illinois wants to compel, not convince, pro-life people to say the falsehood that abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth.
Please tweet this article!
- Tweet: Illinois Trying to Shut Down Pregnancy Centers with Compulsory Disinformation
- Tweet: The claim that “abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth” is on the same evidentiary level as the claim that vaccines cause autism.
- Tweet: Both pro-choice people and anti-vaccination activists are pointing to an overtly flawed study as a basis for false claims and using this appeal to a false authority as a cudgel against their opponents.
- Tweet: The pro-choice legislature is trying to mandate disinformation, to force honest people to tell lies in order to provide counseling, free ultrasounds, clothing, diapers, and formula to expecting mothers.
- Tweet: This bill would empower Illinois to shut down every pregnancy center in advance based on the accusation that they are ABOUT to refuse to lie to their clients.
- Tweet: As a pro-lifer, I don’t want to compel agreement or belief in the pro-life position. I want to compel people not to kill unborn humans, but that doesn’t require anyone to be forced to say they’re pro-life when they’re not.
- Tweet: I want to convince, not compel, people to say what I believe to be true about abortion. Illinois wants to compel, not convince, pro-life people to say the falsehood that abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth.
The post Illinois Trying to Shut Down Pregnancy Centers with Compulsory Disinformation originally appeared at the Equal Rights Institute blog. Subscribe to our email list with the form below and get a FREE gift. Click here to learn more about our pro-life apologetics course, “Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations About Abortion.”
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