Amherst Bylaw To Ban ‘Deceptive Advertising’ By Crisis Pregnancy Centers Withdrawn

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A proposed Amherst bylaw that would ban “deceptive advertising” by crisis pregnancy centers — reported on by NewBostonPost earlier this month — has been withdrawn.

The withdrawal “has nothing to do with the importance or legitimacy of this bylaw, and everything to do with the need for an approach which meets the urgent moment we are now in,” the sponsor, town councilor Ana Devlin Gauthier, wrote in a memo to fellow councilors dated Friday, June 10.

Devlin Gauthier said in the memo that while she still supports the idea of the bylaw, circumstances have changed since she first proposed it — specifically, the leaking of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey

“The leaked majority opinion on Dobbs has the potential to undo over 50 years of protections offered to those who benefit from reproductive care in any way,” Devlin Gauthier said in the memo. “In light of the leaked opinion, the focus of leaders on the local, state, and federal level must be aligned and prioritize availability of resources, education, and preparedness.” 

“As Amherst does not currently have a CPC within our community, we are in a better position to focus our energy and work on these,” Devlin Gauthier added.

Also since the leak of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, some crisis pregnancy centers in the United States have been hit with vandalism and arson. Devlin Gauthier’s memo doesn’t mention those incidents.

Abortion is legal and publicly funded in Massachusetts, both through court decisions and statute.

In 1981, the Massachusetts Supreme Court held in Moe vs. Secretary of Administration and Finance that the Massachusetts Constitution protects a right to an abortion. 

All 11 members of Congress from Massachusetts support legal abortion. The governor, Charlie Baker, a Republican, also supports legal abortion. In December 2020, state legislators enacted an abortion expansion bill known as the ROE Act.

Crisis pregnancy centers offer free counseling and products to help women with problem pregnancies give birth. Most centers are run by pro-life volunteers.

NewBostonPost contacted Alliance Defending Freedom which represents a crisis pregnancy center in Connecticut in a federal lawsuit that challenges a statute passed by Connecticut legislators in May 2021 that bans what it calls “deceptive advertising” by crisis pregnancy centers.

Asked about the now-withdrawn measure in Amherst, a spokesman for Alliance Defending Freedom said by email:  “Pregnancy centers should be free to serve vulnerable women and offer the support they need without fear of unjust government punishment. It is both wrong and unlawful for the government to target pro-life pregnancy centers in an attempt to control and police their speech.”

NewBostonPost asked Devlin Gauthier for comment about this statement. The councilor did not respond by deadline.


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