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Judge Rules Out Pregnancy Tests at 25 Right-to-Life League Centers

September 27, 1985|DOROTHY TOWNSEND | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Thursday barred 25 Southern California Right-to-Life League counseling centers from conducting pregnancy tests and delivering results orally to women who go there for free counseling.

Judge Irving A. Shimer granted a preliminary injunction in response to a civil suit accusing the centers of practicing medicine without a license. Shimer declined to declare the center's procedures the practice of medicine, but said:

"Whether they are practicing medicine or not, I don't know. The point is that these tests are perceived by people as having medical consequences and concerns.

'Aura of Authority'

"The representation is made to the client that this is a pregnancy test, and that is a medical procedure. . . . What I am concerned about here is the whole process . . . and the aura of authority that goes with the (oral report) at the end."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday September 28, 1985 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 1 National Desk 2 inches; 63 words Type of Material: Correction
In an article Friday on a Superior Court decision barring pregnancy testing at Right-to-Life League counseling centers, The Times incorrectly reported that the president of the Board of Medical Examiners had supported the league's position that the centers were not practicing medicine. The court declaration actually came from a former president of the defunct board, which has been reconstituted as the Board of Medical Quality Assurance.

Shimer said he was "taking the centers out of the urine-sampling business," ordering them in the future to take clients to accredited medical laboratories for the urine tests and to deliver only the laboratories' written reports to the clients.

Attorney Charles Cummings argued there was never any "misrepresentation, fraud or attempt to mislead" at the centers run by the league, a nonprofit educational and service group that says it has about 40,000 members in Southern California. On the contrary, he noted that each client is given a written disclaimer with a recommendation to see a physician.

Doctors' Declarations

Cummings also called attention to declarations from six doctors, including the president of the state Board of Medical Examiners, that the action of reporting the results of the urine samples did not constitute diagnosis or the practice of medicine.

Shimer, however, was not persuaded. "I think there is a potential for disservice to people who don't read . . . ," he said. "You are dealing with people who go to a center for a free pregnancy test. They don't go to an obstetrician."

His ruling was hailed after the hourlong hearing as a victory by attorney Gloria Allred, who filed the suit on behalf of Shanti Friend, 25, of Los Angeles, and the general public.

"I think it may be the first time in the United States that the league has been enjoined from pregnancy testing," she said outside the courtroom. Allred had argued that the centers' practice of taking urine samples, having them laboratory-tested and announcing results as "positive" or "negative" constituted diagnosis and the practice of medicine.

The suit, filed last January, also charged the centers with deceptively advertising anti-abortion lectures as "pregnancy counseling." Friend, according to the suit, was attracted to the group's South Bay center in Torrance because of an ad in the Yellow Pages offering "free pregnancy testing and counseling." The woman claimed that instead of counseling about birth control or abortion, she was shown pictures of mutilated fetuses and told "horror stories" about women who died during abortions.

In an earlier hearing in August, another Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the advertising, on its face, was not misleading or in violation of any law, and that the defendants were not required to include in the ads what point of view or views would be involved in the counseling.

But Judge Warren Deering did concur that the alleged interpretation of the pregnancy test results by the centers constitutes the practice of medicine.

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