King County: Unlicensed ‘pregnancy centers’ must admit lack of medical care

SEATTLE — The King County Board of Health approved new requirements that unlicensed pregnancy centers post a notice on-site and in their advertising of their lack of medical credentials.

The board was stuck between two positions — a pregnant woman’s right to choose and the First Amendment right to avoid talking about abortion.

“They want to help save other women from having to go through such a terrible experience that she’ll regret for the rest of her life,” said Beth Daranciang, a defender of the “limited service pregnancy centers.”

“They don’t do any invasive procedures. There’s nothing dangerous,” she said.

The clinics are often run by religious nonprofits that provide pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection tests and even ultrasounds without a nurse or doctor present.

Critics and the county say pregnancy center staffers are masquerading as clinicians.

“Taken on the deceptive practice of pretending to be a medical facility,” said Tiffany Hankins, with NARAL (the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League).

The debate mostly centers on abortion and steering women away from all options.

“Well, I think you`re going to get the better care, the best care, if you have a licensed practitioner,” said Health Board Chairman Rod Dembowski.

He believes the new notice signs in 10 different languages will help patients know that there's no expectation for licensed care inside.

“What we don`t want to do is have politics interfere with health,” he said.

Clinic supporters want their own choice to share only what their faith believes.

Other cities have passed laws to require similar signs. But ones that specifically say abortion isn't discussed at the clinic.

That's prompted lawsuits and it is unclear if that will happen in King County.