City attorney proposes new law to strengthen reproductive rights in Los Angeles

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Los Angeles, CA - August 31: Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, who is running for mayor in 2022, in response to a Los Angeles Times story on police overtime, holds a news conference in front of LAPD Headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer in front of LAPD headquarters in August 2021. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer is proposing a new law to strengthen reproductive rights and to position the city as a haven for those seeking abortion services.

Feuer said the draft legislation would prohibit any pregnancy center from misrepresenting the services it performs. The proposed law would also provide women and others legal recourse if they are misled.

"When it comes to reproductive choice, time matters," Feuer said at a news conference Thursday. "When it comes to reproductive choices, truth matters."

States around the country are restricting or prohibiting abortion access, making California and Los Angeles County a critical destination for some in the post-Roe vs. Wade era, Feuer said.

According to a June UCLA study, up to 16,000 more people are expected to travel to California each year for abortion care, with more than half likely to end up in Los Angeles County.

To aid those seeking help, the draft legislation would ban clinics from making false advertising statements or misleading potential clients about the services they provide.

While it applies to any business offering pregnancy-related care, the proposed law is largely aimed at providers known as crisis pregnancy centers, which are often religiously affiliated and opposed to abortion. These crisis centers are commonly near or otherwise resemble reproductive health clinics and often deceive people by falsely advertising full reproductive care, including abortion.

Many centers are typically staffed by untrained or unlicensed volunteers and employees, resulting in incomplete or inaccurate information that limits people from making grounded and timely choices about their reproductive care. Those who seek care at crisis pregnancy centers are often in distress, and they tend to be disproportionately young, poorly educated or poor, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group that supports abortion rights.

"After the overturn of Roe vs. Wade, I am even more concerned that these centers will feed on the vulnerability of these patients and that women will be told that abortion care isn’t an option, forced to give birth to a child that they cannot afford to care for," said Nury Martinez, Los Angeles City Council president, who in 2016 introduced a motion calling attention to the issue with crisis centers.

There are an estimated five crisis pregnancy centers in Los Angeles, Feuer said.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked enforcement of a 2015 California law, known as the Reproductive Fact Act, that required faith-based crisis pregnancy centers to notify patients that the state offers subsidized medical care, including abortions.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.