The public will have a chance to weigh in on a plan to halt alleged deceptive practices at Hartford’s anti-abortion centers, a hot-button issue that already has aroused frustration among community groups.
A hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at city hall.
The city council is considering a proposal that would crack down on faith-driven pregnancy centers, which critics say sometimes pose as clinics to lure women and hand out misleading information about abortions.
Under the plan, raised by Mayor Luke Bronin, the centers would be required to disclose whether staff members have medical licenses, and would be banned from engaging in false or deceptive advertising practices.
Fines of $100 a day could be levied against centers that violate the ordinance. If adopted, the city’s health and human services department would begin enforcement within 30 days.
In Hartford, proponents have singled out a facility on Jefferson Street called the Hartford Women’s Center, located just steps from an independent abortion clinic. Detractors say the women’s center was set up there to intercept patients heading for the clinic.
“We are heartened to see the mayor of Hartford and council members respond so strongly to this threat to women’s health,” Sarah Croucher, head of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, said.
“It is unimaginable that a woman seeking an abortion would be lied to, shamed, and given medically incorrect information when she thinks she is in a real medical office. Yet that is happening on a regular basis right here in Hartford.”
Pro-life activists have struck back since the proposal was made public this month. In an email to supporters and the media, Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, called the measure “the single biggest attack on the pro-life movement in Connecticut.”
“Make no mistake,” he wrote. “This is not just about one pregnancy care center in Hartford. The ordinance is written in such a way that it would affect any pregnancy care center in Hartford.
“And it won’t stop with Hartford,” he added. “Pro-abortionists are advertising their desire to do this in other Connecticut cities.”
Officials have estimated that there are more than 30 anti-abortion centers across the state.
Bronin said he suggested the crackdown after hearing complaints.
“This is really simple,” he said. “Women, especially young women, shouldn’t have to worry about being lied to or misled when they’re seeking help concerning their healthcare.”
The practice has sparked political backlash in other areas.
In 2015, the California General Assembly passed legislation requiring anti-abortion centers to provide comprehensive information about reproductive health care options, including abortion. As part of that law, the centers also must disclose whether they lack a medical license.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in June upheld a San Francisco law prohibiting crisis pregnancy centers from misleading women into believing they provide abortions.
A vote on Hartford’s ordinance could come by the end of this month.