Rep. Carolyn Maloney is pushing for Congress to pass a federal bill that would regulate the advertisements and practices of "crisis pregnancy centers."
The bill would give the Federal Trade Commission oversight of the centers, which Maloney said target women seeking abortions and use manipulative tactics to intimidate and deter them.
"No woman deserves to be misled or lied to about legal medical family planning services," Maloney said.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Jessica Lappin, along with a host of women's health advocates, are backing Maloney's push. Lappin is sponsoring a resolution in the City Council that would officially call on Congress to pass the bill.
This is not the first time the council has taken up this issue: A similar law passed in the City Council in March 2011, and was set to take effect on July 14, 2011, until it was blocked by a federal lawsuit that alleged it was unconstitutional on the grounds that the ads and the clinic practices were protected as free speech.
The bill is currently in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Quinn said because of that bill being blocked, and the Women's Equality Act failing last week, Maloney's legislation is particularly important for New Yorkers.
Quinn said that crisis pregnancy centers specifically target areas where Planned Parenthood clinics are located, sometimes even renting space in the same building.
Maloney added that they often use the same colors as Planned Parenthood, to further confuse women seeking abortion services. She said the ads seek to make women believe they will be offered medical services, but when the women arrive at the clinic, they are fed misinformation.
But the national director behind the largest and longest-standing crisis pregnancy center networks in New York City, Expectant Mother Care/EMC Frontline Pregnancy Centers said that is not the case.
Chris Slattery described the copy on his ads, which refer to "abortion alternatives."
"What's deceptive about that?" he demanded.
According to the advocates backing Maloney, one common assertion women reportedly hear at crisis pregnancy centers is that abortion causes breast cancer. In a report produced by NARAL, a "volunteer investigator" who went to the Bridge to Life center in the Bronx said her friend was asked "if her breasts felt different or sore" since becoming pregnant and was told abortion could cause breast cancer.
"That's absolutely true," Slattery declared, citing a Baruch College professor, Joel Brind, who has released reports supporting that notion.
But the NARAL report said that the National Cancer Institute conclusively found no correlation between abortion and even an increased risk of breast cancer, let alone actual instances of cancer.
Maloney and Quinn noted that this sort of legislation has faced difficulty before, but Quinn said Maloney is up for the challenge: "If you take a list of things that they said wouldn't happen in Congress but did, like 9/11 healthcare, they were led by Carolyn Maloney."
Maloney in turn praised Quinn, saying she wished she was a Speaker in Washington, D.C.
"More would get done!" an impatient Maloney declared.
She then added: "Congress needs to stop wasting time on Benghazi and other things and focus on passing this bill."
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat