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Free speech lawsuit challenges Conn. law against deceptive advertising by pregnancy clinics

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.
Office of the Connecticut Attorney General
Office of the Connecticut Attorney General
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is one target of lawsuit over law prohibiting deceptive advertising by pregnancy centers

An advocacy group that opposes abortion is going to court in defense of some women’s health clinics in Connecticut operated by other abortion opponents. The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a clinic in New London that says it fears it is a target of a new law that prohibits deceptive advertising practices by crisis pregnancy centers. The lawsuit claims the law violates the free speech rights of Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center of Southeastern Connecticut.On its website the clinic invites pregnant women to come to it for medical services and counseling on all options. The website includes sections that address the abortion pill and abortion procedures. The website does not make it clear that the operator of the clinic’s stated goal is “acknowledging that every human life begins at conception and is worth of protection [to offer] compassion, hope and help to anyone considering abortion by presenting them with realistic alternatives.”

Pages of the website for the Connecticut clinic that provide abortion descriptions include this disclaimer at the bottom: “We provide education on abortion and pregnancy options. We do not refer or perform abortions or provide emergency contraceptives.”

Backers of the law against deceptive advertising by pregnancy centers acknowledge the work of clinics such as the Care Net Center are its targets.

“It's a very simple law that provides that we here in Connecticut will protect people from getting lied to,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, one defendant in the lawsuit, told And Another Thing, “  the point of this statute is to protect people, particularly young women who might be pregnant and might be considering what her options are to make sure that they're not lied to, that they're not deceived as they make a very important decision.”

“Restrictions we tolerance and good faith in America require people of all different viewpoints to be able to share their opinions and beliefs and offer their services without being targeted for government punishment,” said Denise Harle, an attorney with The Alliance Defending Freedom, who says the law deliberately targets people and groups opposed to abortion.

Harle also insists no one is misled at the Care Net Center.

“Everything it has said is truthful, even those things that the attorney general claims are deceptive. And so it is going to continue to reach out to women and offer their free services in the same way that they have been doing,” Harle told And Another Thing.