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Testimony Regarding the Proposed Rulemaking Implementing Local Law 17’s Disclosure Requirements for Pregnancy Services Centers

Testimony Regarding the Proposed Rulemaking Implementing Local Law 17’s Disclosure Requirements for Pregnancy Services Centers

Good afternoon. My name is Katharine Bodde and I am a Policy Counsel with the New York Civil Liberties Union’s reproductive rights program. I would like to thank the Commissioner of Consumer Affairs for the opportunity to provide testimony at today’s hearing. On behalf of the NYCLU, I respectfully submit the following testimony regarding the Proposed Rule.

The NYCLU, the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization with eight offices across the state and nearly 80,000 members and supporters. The NYCLU’s mission is to defend and promote the fundamental principles, rights and constitutional values embodied in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of New York. This includes the rights to privacy, personal autonomy, and equality that are the foundation of reproductive freedom, and the rights to free speech, assembly, and religious liberty embodied in the First Amendment. In light of our long history of vigorously defending and balancing these sometimes competing constitutional concerns, as well as our ongoing support of the law underlying this rulemaking, the NYCLU is uniquely situated to provide testimony on this matter.

Although not licensed, Pregnancy Services Centers (PSCs) give the impression that they are operating as medical facilities. Further, many PSCs have been known to use deceptive and inflammatory material to dissuade women from seeking time-sensitive reproductive health care such as abortion and contraception. As a result, women may rely on inaccurate information or, in some instances, believe that they have already received medical care, thus delaying or deterring time-sensitive health care provided by licensed medical practitioners. The city has a substantial interest in promoting public health and protecting individuals from medical fraud.

To address these concerns, the New York City Council passed Local Law 17 of 2011, which requires PSCs to disclose to consumers whether or not a licensed medical provider is on staff and providing, or supervising the provision of, its services.1 Critical pieces of Local Law 17’s requirements, including consumer confidentiality protections and an oral and written disclosure that PSCs do not have a medical provider supervising the provision of care, were upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Evergreen Ass’n, Inc. v. City of New York.2

The NYCLU supports the enforcement of Local Law 17 through the Commissioner’s adoption of the Proposed Rule, which addresses the law’s requirements for written disclosures by the posting of signs and in advertising and through an oral disclosure by PSC staff. To ensure the Proposed Rule satisfies the legislative intent of preventing consumer deception, the NYCLU strongly recommends the department amend the disclosure within the proposed rule to accurately reflect Local Law 17’s required disclosure.

As required by the underlying statute, Local Law 17 specifies that PSCs must disclose in signage, advertisements, and orally if it does not “have a licensed medical provider on staff who provides or directly supervises the provision of all of the services at the pregnancy services center.”3 This language is clear, unambiguous, and accords with the law’s purpose: informing women who might enter PSCs that the services they receive there will not be overseen by licensed medical personnel. In stark contrast, the Proposed Rule does not match this language and adds a qualification that poses a significant risk of confusion. As proposed by the rule, the required written and oral disclosure states: “This facility does not have a licensed medical provider present on site during all hours that the pregnancy services center is open and operating to directly provide or directly supervise the provision of all services at the facility.” (emphasis added). By implying that a licensed medical provider may be on site during some of the open and operating hours, the additional language wrongly conveys that some services at the PSC are supervised and/or provided by a licensed medical provider, while others are not. But this proposition is simply incorrect as applied to many PSCs, where licensed medical providers never provide care or oversee the provision of care. The Proposed Rule thus undermines the express purpose of the ordinance: to warn women seeking time-sensitive reproductive health care that they will not get it at PSCs.

Consumer access to clear and complete information is the express purpose of Local Law 17. Often, the first contact between a woman seeking care and a PSC representative will take place when a woman inquires about available services, either over the phone or at a PSC reception area. In either case, it is vital that women seeking time-sensitive medical services receive clear and immediate information about the nature of the care being rendered and the availability of licensed medical staff to provide this care. Thus, implementation of a simple and clear disclosure requirement is critical to ensure that consumers receive adequate notice of, and are informed as to the nature of the services they are receiving. The additional language in the Proposed Rule’s disclosure statement unnecessarily dilutes the clarity of this message, is contrary to the purpose of the statute and should be removed.

In conclusion, the NYCLU supports the City’s ability to safeguard women’s access to reproductive health care services and to prevent delays in medical care. The NYCLU looks forward to the implementation and robust enforcement of Local Law 17’s disclosure requirements; as well as Local Law 17’s important restrictions on PSCs regarding the release of consumers’ health and personal information,4 and respectfully submit our recommended changes to the Department.


1 N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 20-816.

2 Evergreen Ass’n, Inc. v. City of New York. 740 F.3d 233 (2d Cir. 2014) cert. denied, 135 S. Ct. 435 (2014).

3 N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 20-816(b).

4 N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 20-817.


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