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L.A. city attorney pressures pregnancy center to comply with state law, provide info about abortion services

L.A. city attorney pressures pregnancy center to comply with state law, provide info about abortion services
City Atty. Mike Feuer on Thursday announced a $13.5-million settlement with U.S. Bank over its repossessed properties. (Los Angeles city attorney's office)

A Los Angeles pregnancy center that failed to comply with a state law requiring it to provide clients with information about free or low-cost family planning services, prenatal care, contraception and abortions has agreed to cooperate, City Atty. Mike Feuer announced Thursday.

After the Pregnancy Counseling Center in Mission Hills missed an Aug. 14 deadline to correct violations, the city attorney's office moved to file a lawsuit under a state law that bars unfair business practices and carries a possible $2,500 daily penalty. Feuer also informed the center that his office would seek a temporary restraining order to force it to comply.

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By Tuesday afternoon, the center's counsel contacted the city attorney's office to say it would make the necessary changes. Representatives for the center could not be reached for comment.

"The reason for the urgency in my view is that when a woman is desperately seeking the kind of counseling that would lead them to come to one of these centers, it is imperative that she has full information about her reproductive choices," Feuer said.

In May, Feuer sent letters to six reproductive health facilities in the city of Los Angeles, informing them of their legal obligations under the Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency) Act, which took effect in January.

According to the law, all licensed facilities offering pregnancy-related services must post and disseminate information at the time of check-in about how to access alternative resources, including abortions. The law also requires unlicensed facilities to disclose that they are unlicensed.

Last month, undercover investigators from the Los Angeles County Department of Business and Consumer Affairs discovered that three facilities were not in compliance.

Feuer notified the non-compliant centers that they had 30 days to correct the violations, according to the law. After 30 days, investigators determined that two of the facilities had made the appropriate adjustments, but the Pregnancy Counseling Center in Mission Hills was still not following regulations.

Feuer then took legal action.

"They weren't apprising clients of key information regarding the availability of contraception, abortion, family  planning or other services that are available free of charge to people in California that can qualify on an income basis," Feuer said. "It would be pretty important to know if such services were available."

On Wednesday, investigators confirmed that the center had indeed made the required adjustments.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a national group representing pregnancy centers, previously told The Times that the FACT law threatens the facilities' freedom of speech.

"The 1st Amendment does not allow the government to target its political opponents and force them to speak a message they disagree with," said Bowman, who is helping represent multiple clinics in legal actions contesting the new law.

According to the California ProLife Council, there are 189 "crisis pregnancy centers" in the state that provide services such as pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and counseling.

Critics contend that the centers try to steer clients away from considering abortion altogether.

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