CFC Testimony: Colorado SB23-190
CFC Director of Policy Shannon Russell submitted testimony to the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee for their hearing on SB23-190. This testimony was submitted on March 15, 2023.
Catholics for Choice Supports SB23-190
Dear Chair Gonzales, Vice Chair Rodriguez, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Catholics for Choice is a nonprofit organization that encounters, educates, and emboldens people of faith who support reproductive freedom. Since 1973, we have worked in the United States and around the world to ensure that all people everywhere can freely determine their sexual and reproductive destinies with dignity, respect, and affirmation. That same year, the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade cementing the constitutional right to abortion. Now more than ever, following the overturning of this decision and nearly fifty years of affirming precedent, lawmakers must pass policies that ensure equitable access to quality, timely, and affordable healthcare. On behalf of the overwhelming majority of pro-choice Catholics and Coloradans, Catholics for Choice urges you to support SB23-190, which would prohibit the use of deceptive advertising by anti-abortion centers.
Also known as crisis pregnancy centers or fake clinics, anti-abortion centers (AACs) masquerade as abortion providers but deliberately deceive pregnant people through lies, disinformation, and propaganda. In Colorado, as in much of the U.S., the nineteen clinics that actually provide abortion services are far outnumbered by the state’s sixty AACs.ii More often than not, these centers are not licensed providers — and are therefore not subject to the same regulation requirements as legitimate abortion clinics — and employ no staff authorized to perform medical services. Instead, they aim to pressure people to decide against abortion by intentionally leaving out the full range of options, falsely claiming that abortion is unsafe, or lying about how far along a client is in their pregnancy.
What’s more, many AACs mimic the names of nearby abortion clinics in the hope that patients will arrive at the wrong building for their procedures or use language, colors, logos, and interior decorations or medical equipment to market themselves as real abortion clinics and steer people away from time-sensitive care. Some AACs even claim to offer so-called “abortion reversal,” an unproven and unethical procedure that supposedly halts the effects of medication abortion after the first dose of pills. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has denounced such shameful assertions, noting that they are “not based in science and do not meet clinical standards” of care.iiOne thing is clear: these AACs exist to coerce people, and coercion is not healthcare.
Unfortunately, most AACs are religiously affiliated, many are Catholic, and it is not uncommon for them to place people in religious mentoring and counseling programs that are riddled with guilt-inducing anti-abortion messages. In reality, weaponizing our faith as justification for dubious and deceptive advertising tactics contravenes a sacred principle at the very heart of Catholicism: our deep respect for the primacy of individual conscience. The Catechism of the Catholic Church confirms that “in all they say and do, the human person is obliged to follow faithfully what they know to be just and right” and “a human being must always obey the certain judgment of his [sic] conscience. If he [sic] were deliberately to act against it, he [sic] would condemn himself [sic]” (paragraph 1790).
As Catholics, we believe that we must use all the resources available to us to form our consciences so that we can make the best possible decisions for ourselves. This means that all people deserve access to comprehensive, accurate medical information based in sound science when making choices about sexual and reproductive health, ensuring that we can follow our own consciences and honor the right of others to do the same. AACs do just the opposite, pushing lies and dangerous “abortion reversal” treatments at the expense of jeopardizing patient health, well-being, and safety and trampling their conscience-based decisions about abortion.
To make matters even worse, AACs actively target marginalized people who already face the highest barriers to accessing care — particularly the Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and immigrant communities. Since their inception in the late 1960s, fake clinics have become more adept at outreach and marketing to people working to make ends meet and communities of color. Patients with Medicaid coverage may find AACs on lists offered to patients of facilities that provide free pregnancy testing. Some of these centers also buy advertising on Black television and use targeted advertising on websites frequented by Black and Latinx people.
According to the Family Research Council, AACs are even developing special initiatives to target urban communities of color they see as “underserved.” Care Net — one of the nation’s two largest networks of AACs with more than 1,100 affiliates, 30,000 volunteers, and a stated mission to “empower women and men considering abortion to choose life for their unborn children and find abundant life in Christ” — developed an urban initiative “to reach underserved and over-aborted people.” In Colorado, AACs specifically advertise in places where people may not have access to a comprehensive clinic, post Spanish-language billboards in neighborhoods with a large number of immigrants, and use mobile vans to target students on campuses. The limited medical services that they sometimes offer, such as STI testing and ultrasounds, are designed to entice low-income people and those who are uninsured or underinsured and cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for the services they need.
Once again, this is antithetical to our Catholic social justice tradition. Our preferential option for those living in poverty compels us to center the lives of marginalized people who are too often denied the basic human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, to have or not have children, and to parent children in safe and sustainable communities. Indeed, our faith values demand that we dismantle sinful structures of oppression that AACs perpetuate and rely on — such as systemic racism, gender inequality, economic insecurity, and immigration restrictions — so that people can freely choose how best to build and care for their families.
Ultimately, Catholics believe deeply in the values of dignity, compassion, and justice and want all of our neighbors to be able to access the medically-accurate and compassionate care that they decide is right for them — no matter who they are, what identities they hold, where they live, or how much money they make. I implore you to listen to those who want and need access to abortion care and to demonstrate moral leadership by supporting SB23-190 and other pro-choice legislation. It is simply the right thing to do and, given the nationwide abortion access crisis, it is more urgent than ever.
Director of Policy, Catholics for Choice