The outcome was predetermined, but it was still a little bit surprising.
The meeting began with an hour of public testimony, limited to one minute per speaker, and dominated by those opposed to the proposal targeting pregnancy centers.
Nevertheless, the King County Board of Health voted 10-1 to require “limited service pregnancy centers” to post notices in their facilities, in 48 point font in 10 different languages, that say “This facility is not a health care facility.”
Councilmember Kathy Lambert was the lone vote in opposition.
The purported reason for the regulations was to prevent delay in receiving pregnancy information that can have an adverse health impact on both the woman and the baby.
However, public testimony in support of the proposal was conspicuously devoid of anyone who claimed to have been deceived, delayed, or otherwise harmed by a pregnancy center.
That isn’t to say no one was there to support the regulation.
A small parade of interns from the far-left legal group Legal Voice had several bad things to say. None of them, however, claimed any personal contact with the organizations, much less harm.
Legal Voice is the organization who sent fake clients into pregnancy centers under false pretenses. Unsurprisingly, they reported that the centers were deceptive and dangerous.
The staff report prepared by the Board of Health that is frequently referred to as the justification for the rule relied entirely upon the Legal Voice report.
Kim Triller, executive director of Care Net of Puget Sound, told the board emphatically that the contents of the report were false, but the board seemed uninterested.
We are not aware of any attempt by the Board of Health to independently verify whether the accusations were true.
The vast majority of those who attended the hearing were opposed to the proposed regulation. No fewer than 10 women, who had personally been served by the pregnancy centers, described how the pregnancy centers served them.
Council members attempted to acknowledge the good work the centers were doing and repeatedly emphasized that this was not an attempt to shut down the centers.
Still, the political rather than policy motives were transparent.
While the committee claimed to have been working on the issue for more than a year, they appeared to have done little actual thinking about the rule itself.
For example, a significant amount of time was spent trying to figure out how many pieces of 8.5 x 11 paper were required to print the notice in 48 point font in ten different languages. That fairly rudimentary conversation seemed to betray the fact that very little actual thinking had been done about the rule.
Five minutes before the passage of the regulations one member pointed out that requiring pregnancy centers to post the warning on internet advertising in ten different languages makes many forms of internet advertising illegal or impractical for pregnancy centers.
Imagine the impact of the following advertisement with a warning printed in 10 different languages.
Kinda takes away the impact, doesn’t it? Well. That’s the point.
While the notice might actually fit on a banner of this size, it could be illegal for a pregnancy center to purchase a smaller advertisement because there wouldn’t be room for the notice.
That fact creates a significant constitutional problem for the rule.
The council, however, was now more than two hours into the meeting. They appeared to be losing interest in discussing the actual impact.
So they just passed it.
Constitutional concerns about the rule abound. Additional free speech concerns include prohibitions on government forcing people to engage in “compelled speech”. Additionally, the rules would not apply to centers that perform abortions.
Several federal courts have found similar regulations to be unconstitutional and an appeal of a similar regulation from California is on the Supreme Court’s conference schedule for September 25, 2017. As a result, the Supreme Court may soon be speaking to this issue soon.
Constitutional issues aside, it remains unclear whether any centers in King County actually fall under the definition of a “limited service pregnancy center” according to the rule.
The definition of a “limited service pregnancy center” excludes “health care facilities… where licensed, certified, registered, or otherwise authorized health care providers conduct functions that make it governed by 70.02 RCW.”
Virtually every pro-life pregnancy center meets this definition of a “health care facility” and is therefore exempt.
It is possible that in their effort to appease the abortion lobby, the county has drawn a circle so small that no one is inside it.
If that’s the case, even abortion industry lackeys can’t help but wonder whether the inevitable legal costs to the county are worth the effort to regulate no one.
Regardless, you can be sure that groups like Planned Parenthood, Legal Voice, and the National Abortion Rights Action League will use these rules to harass pro-life facilities even if, in the end, the rule is found not to apply to them.
After all, that’s the entire point of the rule is harassment, isn’t it?
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