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Longmont rep aims to stop deceptive ads by anti-abortion centers

Rep. Karen McCormick one of four sponsors for bill targeting practices of “crisis pregnancy centers”
Abortion doctor

A state representative of Longmont is the sponsor of a bill that aims to prohibit deceptive advertising by anti-aboriton centers.

Rep. Karen McCormick, a Democrat representing most of Longmont, is sponsoring SB23-190 with Democrats Sen. Faith Winter of Westminster, Sen. Janice Marchman of Loveland and Rep. Elisabeth Epps of Denver. The bill makes misleading advertising regarding pregnancy-related services a deceptive trade practice.

McCormick explained over the phone that the bill introduced last week would put a new section in the Colorado Consumer Protection Act making it a deceptive trade practice to advertise, directly or indirectly, providing abortions, emergency contraceptives or referrals for these services without actually providing these services.

Anti-abortion centers, sometimes referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers,” aim to dissuade people from getting an abortion. However, some argue that the advertising at some of these centers can make it unclear the clinic’s true goals.

“We’re trying to stop this luring of folks to these places,” McCormick said. “We want them to be more transparent in what they are doing. If they’re offering counseling services, that’s fine. Say it’s counseling services.”

According to a release, anti-abortion clinics outnumber abortion-providing clinics 51 to 20 in Colorado. McCormick added that these types of clinics often target communities of color, immigrants and low-income people who already have a hard time accessing health care.

The bill would go on to make prescribing, offering or facilitating a “medication abortion reversal” unprofessional conduct for licensed or certified health care providers. An abortion “reversal” is an experimental treatment that involves administering doses of progesterone to attempt to stop the abortion process, but has not been rigorously tested for effectiveness or safety.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that this type of treatment — which is sometimes offered at anti-aboriton clinics —  is not based on science and does not meet clinical standards.

“The goal is not to shut the clinics down,” McCormick said of the bill. “The goal is to stop the outright deception and sometimes outright lies that are occurring  and to not put themselves out there as something that they are not.”

Since the Dobbs decision ended the constitutional right to abortion last year by overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion is now illegal in 12 states and severely restricted in 15 more. Last year, Colorado saw the number of abortions for out-of-state patients double.

McCormick wants to make sure that those coming to Colorado seeking an abortion aren’t deceived by these clinics either.

“That, you can imagine, could cause issues not only in delaying care but the fact that they also have taken time out of their life to travel here,” she said. “It delays that care and certainly causes a whole bunch more mental anguish potentially when it’s a sensitive time in their life, and it's an important decision that they’re making for themselves.”

The bill is modeled after a law recently passed in Connecticut, though Colorado’s would be the first in the country to target abortion pill reversal if passed. McCormick said lawmakers have been in close consultation with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to ensure that the legal language will hold up.

SB23-190 was introduced as part of a three bill package shoring up abortion access in Colorado, along with a bill to increase insurance access for abortion and another to ensure patients and providers for both abortion and gender-affirming care would be protected from legal action in other states. McCormick was optimistic about the bill’s prospects.

“We feel like we’re in a really good spot to get this through the statehouse, get it to the governor’s desk as a package with these other bills and just further secure all of these reproductive healthcare rights and access to Colorado and those that are traveling here from out of state — until we get something done on a national level to fix this mess we’re in,” McCormick said.

The bill was up for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.