Oral Testimony Opposing H.377/S.174H.377 / S.174
An Act to protect patient privacy and prevent unfair and deceptive advertising of pregnancy-related services
Myrna Maloney Flynn
President, Massachusetts Citizens for Life
Monday, July 24, 2023
Good afternoon. I’m Myrna Maloney Flynn, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life and Chairman of the Pregnancy Care Alliance of Massachusetts. I offer three reasons why this committee must oppose H.377/S.174.
First, this bill discriminates against pregnancy resource centers (or P-R-Cs). The requirements and penalties related to this bill apply only to PRCs. Abortion providers offer pregnancy-related services, because they exist to end pregnancies. Yet abortion providers are not expected to follow the same measures this bill demands of PRCs.
Section 1 states that a PRC “user interface” must not be (quote) “designed with the effect of impairing user choice.” But look at the website published by Four Women’s Health in Attleboro. It claims the organization offers (quote) “comprehensive” health care. Yet across the site, only abortion is presented to a pregnant user. There is no web copy related to adoption, parenting or prenatal services. No “choice” exists in this user interface, and so the clinic would be in violation of this bill.
Second, the text of this bill is vague and lends itself to highly subjective interpretation.
Section 2 relates to alleged “Deceptive Advertising of Pregnancy-Related Services” and states that a PRC may not “disseminate . . .any statement concerning any pregnancy-related service . . . that is deceptive.” But “deceptive” is not defined in this bill. Further, PRCs have not been provided with even one example of so-called “deceptive” information. How are they supposed to follow this law if they don’t know what they are to avoid? Returning to the Four Women’s Health example, that website includes only a partial list of abortion pill side effects and omits data related to serious complications and long-term consequences of chemical abortion. This omission not only deceives women but endangers them.
Third, this bill prohibits free speech. In its misguided aim to prevent false statements, the text muzzles a PRC, particularly its online speech.
It is not uncommon for more than half of a PRC's clients to learn about the center from internet searches. (Word of mouth is the second most common referral source.) Members of the Pregnancy Care Alliance receive high satisfaction ratings by their clients. These PRCs have never received a complaint related to "deceptive" advertising. What they have received are thousands of grateful women who found them via online searches in time to obtain free help and sincere support when they needed it most.
PRCs use contemporary and responsible marketing strategies that all reputable organizations use. It would be unconstitutional for the state to practice this clear form of censorship.
Like each of you, Massachusetts Citizens for Life believes our women deserve the best possible care. But this bill is not the way to provide it. I encourage you to oppose this legislation. Thank you.