After ending an abusive relationship, Marketa T. found out she was pregnant. She wanted to move on, and in her mind, that meant having an abortion. A Google search led her to First Resort, San Francisco's only licensed medical pregnancy center. After talking with a counselor at First Resort, Marketa realized she needed help as a victim of domestic violence - and decided to keep her baby.
"Little did I know I was making a choice that would impact my whole life," she said in a written testimony. World California granted anonymity to Marketa to protect her child from learning of the planned abortion.
A new San Francisco law will hinder women like Marketa from finding the city's pregnancy centers by regulating the centers' use of billboard space and Google search ads.
Last week, Mayor Ed Lee signed the Pregnancy Information Disclosure and Protection Ordinance, which allows the city attorney to determine whether a pregnancy center is giving false or misleading information to women - and to take legal action for violations. A violation of the law results in a $500 penalty.
"We don't tell lies - we're not worried about the things we say that are true," said Paul Sluis, director of First Resort. "We're concerned they will look at things they don't want us saying and call them misleading."
Sluis said the group is considering legal action to repeal the law because it feels the law unfairly restricts its freedom of speech. The law exempts any organization that offers abortions or refers women to abortion providers, leaving only First Resort and Alpha Pregnancy Center under regulation.
First Resort, which has locations in San Francisco, Redwood City, and Oakland, offers "counseling and medical care to women who are making decisions about unplanned pregnancies," according to its website. A registered nurse is present during operating hours and an OB-GYN doctor oversees the three clinics.
Alpha Pregnancy Center offers pregnancy tests and support for women who are pregnant or have children.
The law, passed last month by the board of supervisors in a 10-1 vote, claims pregnancy center ads and information mislead women into thinking the centers provide medical care and offer abortions. According to the legislation introduced by Supervisor Malia Cohen, a woman "loses time crucial to the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy," which could jeopardize her chances for an abortion.
Supervisor Sean Elsbernd voted against the ordinance saying there is no evidence that women are being misled by the two pregnancy centers. "We're putting forward a solution to a problem that in San Francisco has not been documented," he said.
Elsbernd warned that the law will not stand up in court. Judges have recently struck down similar ordinances in four New York and Maryland cities that require pregnancy centers to post notices that they do not provide abortions or have licensed medical staff. Litigation is pending for another law in Austin, Texas.
The Alliance Defense Fund, which represented these pregnancy centers, agrees with Elsbernd.
"The reason these laws are not holding up is because they single out people with pro-life beliefs and force them to deliver the government's message," said ADF legal counsel Matt Bowman. "They are engaging in a political agenda against centers that offer woman real help and alternatives to abortion."
For Marketa, a call to First Resort set her on a course to getting her life back. "I came to First Resort at the lowest point in my life," she said. "I left First Resort inspired to take back my life."