Texas Lawmakers Call for Greater State Oversight of Crisis Pregnancy Centers
Urge action on bills to create licensing and care standards, penalties for deceptive practices
AUSTIN -- Democratic lawmakers today called for greater state oversight of crisis pregnancy centers to ensure Texas women have access to safe, accurate and reliable health care information and treatment.
The legislators, State Representatives Jessica Farrar (D-Houston), Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio), Valinda Bolton (D-Austin) and Ellen Cohen (D-Houston), and Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), urged action on a series of bills which would create licensing and care standards for Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), and establish penalties for centers which provide Texas women with deceptive or misleading reproductive and health care information.
"Crisis Pregnancy Centers are not medical clinics and they do not provide any kind of medical services," said Farrar. "Many times these centers choose medically-sounding names and set up at locations near actual clinics and mislead women looking for medical care."
In 2005, the Texas Legislature diverted $5 million from established and licensed family planning programs to unregulated CPCs. Unfortunately, serious concerns have been raised in Texas and across the country regarding these facilities, which are not licensed medical providers, are not regulated by the state, are not required to have trained medical or counseling personnel on staff. Critics have shown that personnel at these centers often provide heavily slanted, biased and inaccurate health care information. One major national review of federally-funded CPCs showed that 87 percent of the centers gave women misleading reproductive health information.
The group of legislators have filed a series of bills to ensure CPCs meet recognized standards. Senate Bill 1174 by Ellis/HB 2878 by Thompson would require these facilities to employ at least one licensed health care practitioner or counselor, create a licensure process for the centers, set minimum health and safety standards, protect patient privacy and allow oversight and inspection by the Health and Human Services Commission.
"If the state of Texas is going to provide funding for Crisis Pregnancy Centers, then we must also ensure that the clients of these facilities are going to be protected," said Ellis. "If these facilities are going to portray themselves as an alternative for Texas women, then they should have to meet the minimum standards of professionalism and training that other providers must meet."
"I feel that if we are going to give Crisis Pregnancy Centers state funding, then it is not only important but necessary that we act responsibly," said Thompson. "We should know, and we are obligated to know, exactly what is going on inside these centers, which right now we do not know. "
House Bill 2142 by Rodriguez protects Texas women by establishing criminal and civil penalties for CPCs providing pregnancy-related medical services without a license.
"House Bill 2142, would prohibit Crisis Pregnancy Centers and other providers who aren't licensed health care providers from deceptively advertising as pregnancy-related medical services, and creates penalties for violators," said Rodriguez. "It is an important first step in ensuring that consumers are not misled into believing that they will receive appropriate medical care and information from an agency or provider that is not qualified to offer it."
House Bill 2223 by Villarreal requires CPCs to provide medically accurate information to clients and requires posting of signs clearly stating that the facility is not licensed to provide medical care, cannot accurately diagnose pregnancy and does not provide information on pregnancy prevention.
"My preference is to invest in prevention efforts that help couples plan their pregnancies, rather than stepping in once there's a 'crisis.' But if we are going to give state dollars to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, we must ensure they don't misrepresent themselves, the facts or the options," explained Rep. Villarreal. "Texas women deserve a chance to hear the full story."