Two Illinois bills are taking aim at life-affirming pregnancy resource centers (PRCs), allowing state investigations to be launched under mere suspicion of undefined ‘deception’ or wrongdoing, even if no violations have been reported.
HB 2463, or the Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act, asserts that these centers offering free services to women and families should be investigated if it even appears they were about to engage in any so-called and undefined “deceptive practice.” Under this as well as its sister bill, SB 1909, PRCs could face a $50,000 fine for spreading so-called “deceptive” information or engaging in “deceptive” practices, or concealing, suppressing, or omitting any kind of “material fact.”
What exactly constitutes ‘deceptive’ information or practices, or makes something a ‘material fact,’ is not defined or outlined within the legislation.
As the Catholic Conference of Illinois points out, the state already has a law to deal with fraudulent or deceptive practices: the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (CFDBPA). Yet the new bills specifically single out PRCs, while ignoring any potentially deceptive practices that may be taking place at any other businesses, including profitable abortion facilities.
In addition, SB 1909 gives the Illinois Attorney General the ability to initiate an investigation against a PRC if the AG merely feels it is in the “public interest,” even if no specific complaint has been filed. The attorney general would also be able to “impound” all records from the PRC, something that Illinois Right to Life said could potentially force PRCs to close altogether. The bill also allows the attorney general to take action before a PRC has even done anything illegal or deceptive — just on the suspicion that they will (emphasis added):
the Attorney General believes it to be in the public interest that an investigation should be made to ascertain whether a limited services pregnancy center has engaged in, is engaging in, or is about to engage in, any practice declared to be unlawful by the Act.
An “aggrieved party” can also sue the PRCs, even without having been a client or patient at the PRC they are suing.
PRCs have already won in court, with NIFLA v. Becerra. The 2018 Supreme Court case found that individual states cannot force PRCs to promote or refer for abortion; nor can they punish or target PRCs because of their pro-life views. Should Illinois lawmakers proceed with this legislation, it will likely be in violation of NIFLA, potentially paving the way for more court battles in the future.
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