Senate Bill 1909, which imposes civil penalties targeted only at pregnancy centers for “deceptive practices,” passed the House on Wednesday, May 10 after having previously passed the Senate. We are disappointed that the Illinois General Assembly has passed this legislation. Pregnancy help centers offer important services to low-income, vulnerable, and marginalized women across Illinois. They are generally small community or church-affiliated groups that provide services at no-cost and are funded entirely by private donations.
All women who are vulnerable and in crisis should be protected. However, SB 1909 is left open to a very broad interpretation by the Attorney General about what are “deceptive, fraudulent and misleading practices” or what is a “material fact” as it relates to abortion. There is no guidance for pregnancy centers on how they are to avoid violations as set out under this bill.
Furthermore, there have been no facts cited to support the assertion that pregnancy centers in Illinois have ever engaged in “deceptive, fraudulent, and misleading practices.” Illinois already has a Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act, which does not single out certain types of entities as SB 1909 does, but rather applies to both pregnancy centers and abortion clinics. However, we are not aware of any attempts to address alleged “deceptive, fraudulent, and misleading practices” of pregnancy centers under the current law or otherwise before the introduction of this bill. This bill is an overreach of the law. Rather than targeting pregnancy helps centers as SB 1909 does, we should be supporting their efforts to help women in crisis.