Judge Bars Anti-Abortion Centers From Providing Pregnancy Testing


Operators of 25 Southern California anti-abortion counseling centers were ordered Thursday by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to stop providing pregnancy testing as part of their effort to persuade women not to get abortions.

The Right to Life League of Southern California, which runs the centers, also was forbidden from advertising in the “clinic” section of telephone books because it is not a licensed medical facility.

Superior Court Judge Miriam Vogel granted the permanent injunction in response to a civil suit, which accused the centers of practicing medicine without a license and disguising anti-abortion lectures as “pregnancy counseling.”


She then stayed a portion of the ruling pending appeal.

The ruling, the first of its kind in California on this issue, was hailed as a victory for pro-choice advocates, who have been battling such clinics nationwide. The pro-choice forces have contended that such centers have billed themselves as places to discuss pregnancy options, when they actually are “fronts for anti-abortion propaganda.”

Feminist attorney Gloria Allred, who handled the case, said of the ruling: “Women will be out of the clutches of the anti-abortion propagandists.’

The Right to Life League is expected to appeal the decision.

Susan Carpenter-McMillan, president of the nonprofit league, said described the legal challenge as “harassment by pro-abortion forces. These so-called women of choice are trying to limit the choice of all women. The judge bought into their . . . rhetoric.”

The league has been under a preliminary court order for four years to not tell clients directly the results of laboratory tests at their clinics. The center workers were permitted to provide the women with sealed envelopes containing the laboratory results and then counsel them on pregnancy options.

However, the order issued Thursday went further.

Vogel ruled that telling the clients whether they are pregnant or not constitutes a diagnosis and is forbidden because the counselors are not licensed medical professionals. The centers, she said, cannot administer the pregnancy tests, interpret laboratory results or give the results to the clients.

However, pending appeal, the judge ruled that the centers can still give clients sealed envelopes with the laboratory results as long as they provide a written warning to the client to see a doctor regarding the test results.


Vogel added that the centers, under the order, could do pregnancy testing only if they became licensed medical facilities and hired medical professionals. The order does not bar the Right to Life centers from referring clients to doctors or laboratories for the pregnancy tests. It also allows them to give them pregnancy test kits to take home and administer themselves.

During the trial, Shanti Friend, 29, testified that she looked in the Yellow Pages under clinics and saw an advertisement for “free pregnancy testing.” She said she thought it was a medical clinic and when she arrived at the Torrance facility explained that she wanted the pregnancy test.

However, Friend testified, she was taken into a room by a counselor who subjected her to a “horrifying” anti-abortion lecture in which photographs of mutilated fetuses were shown. The counselor told her “horror stories about botched abortions, and that the world needed more babies,” she testified. She left the center in tears, and did not return to get the results of her pregnancy test, Friend testified.

Right to Life attorney Charles Cummings had argued that there was never an attempt to mislead clients at the centers. And he noted that each client was given a written disclaimer with a recommendation to see a doctor to verify the pregnancy.

However, an official testifying in behalf of the centers said that they used the free pregnancy tests as a “hook” and “marketing device” to get clients to the center to hear the anti-abortion lectures.