One of the things parents teach their children from a very young age is not to lie and always be truthful. The prohibition on lying is included in all mainstream religions, but interestingly the only law against lying is if it is in a judicial proceeding or giving false information to law enforcement. Maybe it is because there is no law against lying that Republicans and Fox News lie pathologically and why evangelical Christians running phony women’s “crisis pregnancy centers” base their entire enterprise on mendacity. Now, however, crisis pregnancy centers in California will be required to follow their bible’s ninth commandment and stop lying because in the Golden State Democrats believe women deserve to hear the truth about their reproductive health choices.
Last week, in a signal that California Democrats believe that women warrant “reproductive freedom and dignity,” California Governor Jerry Brown signed a statewide bill, the Reproductive Fact ACT that forces faith-based crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to stop lying and stop posing as medical providers. Crisis pregnancy centers are religious anti-choice organizations that use the appeal of free pregnancy testing to trap women into suffering through a sermon where they are told blatant lies about abortion and birth control to discourage the use of both. The new law is not any kind of a burden for a legitimate business providing medical services, and primarily requires the churches to post signs alerting women that they are going to be given false information founded on religion, and that church activists are not really medical professionals or providers.
The overwhelming majority of CPCs, many funded by taxpayers, are no more “medical facilities” than a snake-handler’s revival tent, nor do they employ any medical staff. For the record, wearing a white lab coat or medical scrubs does not make one a medical professional; just a very bland, lazy, and unimaginative dresser. With the new consumer protection law, the churches posing as licensed medical providers are required to post a sign at the entrance, in plain view, that says:
“This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides, or directly supervises the provision of, medical services.”
The CPCs are also now required, by law, to inform every woman entering the ‘church’ of all their reproductive health options with either an easily visible sign or clearly-stated handout that says:
“The State of California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services including all FDA-approved methods of contraception, prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women.”
The CPCs are also now required to list phone numbers and locations of county social services offices that are actual medical facilities with actual medical providers licensed by the state to provide the full range of reproductive medical care. The CPCs almost immediately filed suit against California’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris, for some bizarre notion that a law requiring truth in advertising, or prohibiting false advertising, is a gross violation of their freedom of speech and religious liberty to lie.
If the CPCs were not founded on pathological religious lies, nothing whatsoever about these “required disclosures” should bother them, particularly if they were real Christians and not on a crusade to frighten women into giving birth when they do not want to. What should be welcomed by the CPCs is that there is nothing in the new law that prohibits them from preaching at women that “consequence free,” non-procreative sexual relations are an abomination and a mortal sin. But that was not enough of a concession for the religious right and they hope their appeal for judicial redress will allow them to continue using religious lies as sound medical advice.
What the CPC system is so terrified of with California’s new “truth in advertising,” or prohibition against “false advertising,” law is that the entire crisis pregnancy center system is founded on the principle that it is necessary and acceptable to lie to women to trick and frighten them into giving birth and in many cases getting pregnant. It is just a typical and standard anti-choice procedure closely related to the Mormon concept of “lying for the lord” which is all well and good to garner more tithing adherents, but it is unacceptable for deceiving women with “medical advice” borne of religious mendacity to make them birthing machines.
Many CPCs tell women the chance of miscarriage is much higher than it actually is hoping that a woman will take a chance rather than abort the unwanted pregnancy. Some lie and tell women how woefully ineffective and dangerous contraception is, or just drastically minimize the chance of getting pregnant if a woman does not use birth control to convince women to stop. The faith-based medical experts also greatly exaggerate the risks of having an abortion, or just do what comes naturally to liars and make up bizarre risks that have never existed or been documented. There is no end to the CPC lies to frighten women into believing that real medical experts intend to maim or kill any woman who believe it is their decision as to when they give birth.
However, the evangelicals at CPCs actually know for a fact, and believe, that not only is “abortion incredibly safe,” it is actually 14 times safer than giving birth. CPCs claim that “abortion is bad and has many adverse side effects. Abortion is associated with preterm birth, emotion (sic) and psychological impact, and spiritual consequences.” As the pro-choice organization NARAL reported in a study of California CPCs, lying is the norm and most important tool that CPCs use to pressure and frighten women into giving birth no matter the consequences to the woman. Lying for religion is what CPCs regard as sound, fact-based medical advice, and now the organization is very, very angry that California passed a law forcing them to be truthful.
In their lawsuits, the CPCs claim that the new truth in advertising law is unconstitutional and argue that “at minimum the consumer protection law unconstitutionally compels the clinics (churches) to speak messages that they have not chosen, with which they do not agree, and that distract, and detract from, the messages they have chosen to speak.” The also threw down the “religious freedom” to lie card and complained that the new “mandated state message is inconsistent with plaintiffs’ religious convictions.” And so there it is in their own words: lying is part and parcel of the CPC system’s “deeply-held religious convictions.”
One of the new law’s sponsors, Attorney General Kamala Harris said that,
“California has been a national leader in promoting and protecting equal access to the full range of women’s reproductive health care options. The Reproductive FACT Act will ensure that women are empowered to make informed and timely decisions about their health and their bodies.”
Harris’ statement was echoed by NARAL state director Amy Everitt:
“California sent a clear message that women deserve information to help them make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families. With this law, California leaders are demonstrating to the rest of the country what it means to truly respect reproductive freedom and the dignity of women.”
One might hope the concept of “truly respecting reproductive freedom and the dignity of women” would be the law of the land, but this is America where evangelical liars and churches posing as medical facilities are just part of what Republicans love to claim make this country exceptional. In California, respecting and protecting women, their reproductive freedom and dignity is not exceptional, it is just what decent human beings do as a matter of course.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.