By Dave Andrusko
Several friends emailed me a link to a particularly devastating critique of the city of San Francisco’s all-out war against First Resort, a pregnancy resource center. They knew I’d be interested in this particular case because I had recently written about it.
Beyond the high caliber of the analysis, what makes “You Must Abort or We’ll Take You to Court” is that the author is a self-identified pro-choicer. He/she starts this way:
Not aborting fetuses will soon be a crime in San Francisco. At least that’s what the city government is pushing for in its bizarre new attack on pregnancy counseling centers.
Actually, “bizarre” is too mild a word to describe San Francisco’s latest outburst; even from my pro-choice perspective, the city’s attempt to essentially banish any counseling center which doesn’t encourage or perform abortions is simply beyond belief.
The gist of the attack on First Resort by Supervisor Malia Cohen, the bill’s sponsor, and City Attorney Dennis Herrera is that First Resort’s advertisements “appear to be designed to confuse or mislead consumers,” as the New York Times described their complaint.
But as the rejoinder (found here ), makes clear there is nothing that First Resort says in its billboards nor in its webpage (found when you make a search on Google) that is misleading, let alone “particularly egregious,” as Herrera said in a letter sent to First Resort.
Herrera and the San Francisco City Council’s real grievance appears to be that when you type in “abortion” and “San Francisco,” the first name to pop up on Google is First Resort!
The listing on the Web is “First Resort—Unplanned Pregnancy.” Nowhere on the website does First Resort say it performs abortion, and you would have to be asleep while you read the text not to understand that this is a locale that wants to help women have their babies—and keep them or place them for adoption.
But this was enough to drive Herrera to hyperbole squared: “Women’s reproductive rights are under assault,” he thundered.
The author of the piece criticizing Herrera (who is running for Mayor, by the way) and the city council then astutely observes:
If First Resort’s Google Search listing had come in, say, 17th, behind various abortion mills, the city of San Francisco would have just shrugged it off and not gone to all this trouble. But those non-aborters somehow managed to finagle the top result for certain search terms! Take them to court!”
This supposedly is all about allegedly “false advertising,” right? Well…
And in the press conference proudly announcing this [planning to sue a counseling center for false advertising], the City Attorney openly admits that it’s politically motivated, that he’s going after the centers because he defines them as “right-wing.” But seriously, have you ever looked at the ads for the other kinds of pregnancy counseling centers, the kinds of places where if you walk in, the only advice they ever give you is abort abort abort?
Never do they put up big neon signs saying “Fetuses aborted here.” Instead, they have innocuous (some would say “deceptive”) names like “community health center” or “reproductive services clinic” and so on. In fact, if you flip the narrative, and do a Google search for “pregnant” and “San Francisco,” the top result is a hospital that does provide abortions.
How is that any less deceptive, and any less of an inappropriate placement?
As we discussed earlier, NARAL was eager to show its colors at the press conference. They had a press release which boasted, ”NARAL Pro-Choice America has been supportive of similar local legislation in New York, Texas and Maryland cities.” Needless to say, what went unsaid was that federal judges have slapped down similar speech-suppressing legislation in New York City and Baltimore.
Best of all, First Resort CEO Sheri Plunkett showed no signs of buckling under. In a statement posted on their website, she said simply, “We look forward to a robust discussion about the appropriateness of this legislation and urge them not to test the constitutional boundaries of free speech”.
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