Photo credit: video streaming screenshot - courtesy of the Massachusetts House Broadcast Services
In Massachusetts, there was a big showdown at the State House on Monday, July 24, 2023, over a proposed law known as the "Pregnancy Resource Centers Gag Rule".
Side by side, Myrna Maloney Flynn, President of Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL), and Patricia Stewart, Executive Director of MCFL, presented their oral testimonies, articulating the reasons for opposing the proposed legislation.
Flynn gave three reasons in her testimony for why the committee should say no to this bill. First, she said the bill was unfair because it only targeted pregnancy resource centers and didn't apply to abortion providers. Flynn pointed out that some abortion provider websites didn't offer real choices for pregnant women.
MCFL President Myrna Maloney Flynn (left) during her oral testimony | Photo credit: video streaming screenshot - courtesy of the Massachusetts House Broadcast Services
Second, she said the bill was too vague. It didn't clearly define what "deceptive advertising" meant, making it confusing for pregnancy resource centers to follow the rules. Flynn showed an example of a health clinic's website that left out important information about abortion, putting women at risk.
Third, she argued that the bill violated free speech. It would restrict what pregnancy resource centers could say online, affecting how they reach women who need help.
On her testimony, MCFL Director Patricia Stewart highlighted that based on public redorcs obtained there were only four complaints against pregnancy resource centers in the past 39 years. This showed that the centers were safe and made their clients happy, contrary to what the bill's supporters claimed.
Stewart said the bill was unconstitutional because it wasn't clear enough about what was allowed or not. She asked if simple things like not providing directions or not stating that they were closed on Sundays could get pregnancy resource centers in trouble under this law.
MCFL Executive Director Patricia Stewart (on the right) during her oral testimony | Photo credit: video streaming screenshot - courtesy of the Massachusetts House Broadcast Services
At the hearing, 23 people and organizations spoke out against the bill, while nobody -zero- supported it.
Now, it's up to the committee to decide whether they will keep pushing for this bill or listen to the concerns raised by MCFL and other citizens and organizations. The fight to protect women’s ability to choose life and the services provided by pregnancy resource centers continues in Massachusetts.