Texas AG Ken Paxton and Yelp sue each other over cri­sis preg­nan­cy centers

Texas AG Ken Paxton and Yelp sue each other over cri­sis preg­nan­cy centers

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 USA TODAY NETWORKplayShow CaptionHide Caption#videoDetailsToggle{color:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));cursor:pointer;display:inline-block;font-family:var(–sans-serif,sans-serif);font-size:var(–type-7);font-weight:var( –font-weight-bold,900);line-height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);margin-bottom:-8px}#vdt_hide{margin-bottom:10px}.vdt-flex[hidden]{display:none}.vdt-svg{fill:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);width:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px)}Women sue Texas over abortion ban saying it put their lives at riskWomen and doctors are challenging Texas’ abortion ban, saying it doesn’t properly outline exceptions that allow for life-saving terminations.Ariana Triggs, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Yelp are suing each other over labels on the online review platform that designated pregnancy resource centers as providing “limited medical services.”

Paxton filed a lawsuit against Yelp on Sept. 28 stating that the company violated Texas’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act by adding “misleading” language in notices on pregnancy resource centers listings on the website, according to a release. Yelp filed a countersuit on Wednesday stating it published “truthful information about businesses that offer pregnancy-related counseling to the public” and said its disclaimers are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. The company seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, according to the lawsuit.

With the dismantling of federal abortion rights, so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” have become a focus in the renewed debate. The goal of these facilities is typically to dissuade women from having abortions, though supporters say they provide necessary care and counseling.

Before Roe was overturned, there were about 800 abortion clinics in the U.S. in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Researchers put the number of crisis pregnancy centers at anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000.

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SUPREME COURT TOOK AWAY ABORTION RIGHTS: Mexico’s high court just did the opposite.

Abortion in Texas

In Texas, state lawmakers effectively banned abortions in 2021 through Senate Bill 8, which prohibited the procedure as early as five weeks after a woman’s last menstrual cycle. Upon the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2022, a trigger law went into effect banning abortion in the state almost entirely.

Following the ruling, Yelp posted disclaimers on its site to alert potential customers that the resource centers do not provide abortion services. Messages included “may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.”

The attorney general’s office is suing Yelp for “misleading” consumers in the wake of Texas’ restrictive abortion laws. Paxton is seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages of $1 million or more from Yelp, according to a case filed Thursday in Bastrop County state District Court in Central Texas.

“Yelp cannot mislead and deceive the public simply because the company disagrees with our state’s abortion laws,” Paxton said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Major companies cannot abuse their platforms and influence to control consumers’ behavior, especially on sensitive health issues like pregnancy and abortion.” 

The US Supreme Court took away abortion. Mexico’s high court just did the opposite.

Yelp lawsuit: ‘This threat targets truthful speech’

On Wednesday, Yelp filed a preemptive lawsuit in a federal court in San Francisco against Paxton’s office, calling prosecution of the company unconstitutional and affirming that its messages did not violate the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

“This threat targets truthful speech fully protected by the First Amendment, which Yelp months ago replaced with a notice that even the Attorney General admits is ‘accurate,'” the lawsuit filing reads.

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Yelp said a February letter from Paxton’s office demanded that the consumer notice be taken down. The website changed the language to say that pregnancy centers do not provide abortions.

In a Thursday filing, Paxton’s office wrote that pregnancy resource centers provide medical services to expecting mothers and families through access to prenatal services, such as pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and information about abortion. Paxton’s lawsuit argues the original designation “could only have exacerbated consumer confusion.”

“Whatever the merits of informing consumers about where they can seek an abortion, that goal is completely irrelevant to Yelp’s misleading consumer notice about whether pregnancy resource centers perform medical services or have licensed medical professionals on-site,” Paxton’s office wrote.

Yelp CEO’s stance on abortion rights

Paxton’s lawsuit also made note of a 2022 statement from Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, in which he said the company and others need to “take action” regarding the right to abortion.

“Among other things, he boasted that Yelp provides special assistance to ‘select organizations that are fighting the legal battle against abortion bans,'” Paxton’s lawsuit reads.

Yelp’s anticipatory lawsuit was filed in California on the grounds that Paxton is seeking to chill the speech of a California resident, according to the suit.

“The Attorney General’s actions have already caused and, unless enjoined, will continue to cause Yelp irreparable injuries in California,” the lawsuit reads.

Paxton argues that, although the original notice has been removed, the company “remains liable for penalties and other relief for the duration of its unlawful behavior.”

Contributing: Vanessa Arredondo, USA TODAY

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