Whole Woman’s Health: CPCs Sue Austin over… Free Speech?

This year, a city ordinance was passed in Austin stating that Crisis Pregnancy Centers (who are often the ones behind the “Pregnant? Need Help?” bilboards and advertisements, but who also absolutely refuse to refer women to abortion clinics [even if that may be her choice]) must post a sign in front of their facility stating that they don’t refer women to places that provide abortion or birth control services. A few of them did, a few of them didn’t, and nobody said much about it either way.

Now, Crisis Pregnancy Centers are suing the city of Austin over the signs, because it violates their first amendment rights. As they say, their facilities “should be allowed to serve the less fortunate in a manner consistent with their beliefs, without fear of punishment from a city government that has a political disagreement with our message.”

Which is pretty weird, because this case for free speech is coming from some of the same people who advocated for and helped pass:

1.) The 24-hour SMI law, through which Doctors are required to literally recite a list of things that the state of Texas wants women to hear, and then think about for 24 hours, before their elective procedure. This includes the supposed abortion -> breast cancer link, which has reportedly been refuted over and over again. Our physicians have no say in what they tell women, whether they agree with it or not.

2.) The new ultrasound bill would have required Doctors to visually guide a woman through her ultrasound, whether the woman wanted to hear it or not. Versions of it included forcing a woman to view the screen and also forcing her to listen to the fetal heart tones. All of those details have been scratched for now, but it does still require a Doctor to perform the ultrasound 24 hours in advance, now turning every appointment into a 2 day appointment for women. We would have had no say in any of this had it not been tried in court, just as we now have no say in how long their appointments last, however unnecessary.

3.) The Woman’s Right to Know act requires us to offer, pay for and distribute printed materials that the state created, which also cite the breast cancer/abortion link, infertility/abortion link, emotional distress/abortion link, and others that many Physicians disagree with and research studies have disproven.

On top of all of that, we’re also subject to regular, random inspections by the state. Each carries their own large list of detailed, state-mandated rules and regulations that we follow and abide by.

If we’re talking about a violation of first amendment rights, and if we all agree that that’s a bad thing to do, then I suppose we should raise our hand and say: Laws violating our staff and Physicians freedom of speech, on top of our ability to serve women and families in a manner consistent with our beliefs, without fear of punishment from a city (or state) government that has a political disagreement with our message, is pretty much our day to day.

So if Crisis Pregnancy Centers win this case and get to take down their signs (or never comply with them in the first place) in the name of free speech… does that mean we get to stop doing those things we disagree with that the state requires us to do and say, too? Probably not. Therein lies the disadvantage of working in a city/state governed by people that have a political disagreement with your message… Not very fun, is it?

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15 thoughts on “Whole Woman’s Health: CPCs Sue Austin over… Free Speech?

  1. Actually, what they’re suing for (freedom of speech because they’re forced to hang a certain sign) is a right you’re already enjoying. Do you have to hang signs outside the clinic that say “We provide abortions” ? No. You don’t. That’s their point. And as a medical (arguably, considering you probably make the most money from the innocent lives of children) clinic, you have to abide by state laws, just like any other health provider in the state. Shocking, isn’t it?

    1. Did you not read the article?? Our doctors are FORCED to SAY certain things to their patients which they do NOT believe in. THEY ARE FORCED to blatantly lie to their patients and give them falsified information that our POLITICIANS make up. Yes, politicians who I’m sure have a minor in MEDICINE. Sure. Abortion clinics are FORCED to have to put up with protestors who “have freedom of speech” and the “right” to stand out and yell obscenities at passerbys. Although they claim they “peacefully pray”, yea, they don’t. They say that to keep the community on their side. But you don’t deal with it on a day to day basis. So what’s shocking is how ignorant most people are, but then again, ignorance is bliss.

      1. Actually, I did. Did you? Your doctors are FORCED to say things that are scientific fact, whether they believe them or not. Have you ever gone to a hospital or office for any procedure? They’re all FORCED to tell you what’s about to happen. That’s a bad thing? Politicians don’t make up a baby’s heartbeat. Sorry you actually believe that. :/

        And yes, the people outside DO have freedom of speech, as do you and I. It’s one of the wonderful principles we hold in esteem in this country. Many DO peacefully pray. I’m one of them. You can’t lump everyone into one category. I feel the same about ignorance–many women are ignorant about what’s actually developing in their womb. But that’s another argument.

        Point is, whether we agree or disagree, we all need to respect freedom of speech. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I personally feel), medical speech IS restricted because of malpractice suits, etc.

  2. Hi Lauren,
    Actually, we would be pretty happy if the only thing that the city or the state required us to do was let women know what services we provided. In fact, there currently is a large sign on our building that says “Good Women Have Abortions.” Additionally, if you visit our website, you’ll see the word ‘abortion’ there, too. Because that’s a service that we provide. And we sometimes even write about abortion on our blog (hey! here it is.) Finally, you can also trust that everybody who does drive by our facility and enters it knows that we provide abortions because a.) they already have an appointment for an abortion, or b.) because there happen to be a number of people outside with their own signs already made for us.

    But this isn’t about that, anyway. It’s about trying to operate to the best of your ability under the thumb of people who aren’t “on your side” of the issue, and how difficult that can be to face every day both functionally and emotionally. I think more than anything, that law suit unites us in more ways than you’re willing to allow. If you can take a step back at all and see that we’re both ultimately trying to help people in whatever way we believe really helps, the big picture is that both of our causes are carried out with good intention, and moreover, they’re both legal . Therefore there’s no legitimate reason that either side should be restricted and regulated as heavily or as little as any other medical or religious organization that currently exists, more than is necessary.

    If you think hanging a sign outside of your facility stating what services you do or don’t provide is tough, just wait until they start telling you and your physicians when women can come into an appointment, what you have to say to them when they do, when you have to say it to them, that how long a woman’s appointment is to be determined by how many miles she lives from your facility, that somebody who doesn’t agree with what you do created a pamphlet and you need to hand it out to women, that your patients have to wait 24 hours before they can come into your office, or when you have to tell a woman she can’t come in because she has insurance and/or medicaid (but they’ve been bullied into dropping you from their plan), when they take away your public funding because they don’t agree with a service you provide, or when they call you slanderous things at your own State Capitol, try to slowly shut you down completely, and kick everybody who believes in what they do out on the streets, and all the while, you know that people are watching every single thing that you do, listening to your phone calls, breaking into your dumpster, going through your trash and fantasizing about that thing they’ll find that they can shut you down with. When that’s your reality, then by all means, speak up and say something about it. If you really believe in what they’ll be arguing in that lawsuit, just realize there’s not supposed to be such an enormous double standard when it comes to the law. We abide by it, but we should also feel protected by it. That assurance is something that you guys are slowly, surely and proudly chipping away at. But is it really something to be proud of?

    1. You abide by it like every other facility. As does the clinic in the article. Maybe their claims are unfounded (I honestly wasn’t taking a side on their particular claims), but I was trying to let people see the logic in their argument.

      What’s legal isn’t always what’s right, that’s true.

      And if people are so upset about people outside the clinic, maybe they’d be willing to give up their right to free speech as well? Doubt it.

  3. I’d like to address the comment about pro-lifers outside of clinics. I have spent quite a bit of time outside of various clinics praying, yes, peacefully praying with many fellow pro-lifers. Never, not once, have I heard anyone even be rude or unkind to a woman entering a clinic or a clinic worker. Quite the opposite is true. I will agree that there is a lunatic fringe on both sides of the issue, but just as I am sure pro-choicers dont want to be compared to Gosnell hacking off the feet of babies for his jars, please dont paint all pro-lifers with the same broad brush. That is simply not honest.

  4. To wholewomanshealth – thank you for what you do. Women’s reproductive issues are indeed a human rights issue, as Lauren mentions, and your clinics are doing a service to the community amidst animosity, hostility, and yes, even peaceful protest. Thank you for caring for the women in your communities and offering them the counseling, education, and gynecological services that should be available everywhere.

  5. It looks to me that this web site doesnt load up on a Motorola Droid. Are other people getting the same issue? I like this blog and dont want to have to miss it whenever Im away from my computer.

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