An anti-abortion counseling center in Greeley has lost a legal fight aimed at shutting down a website that accused the center of deceptive advertising and spreading misinformation about abortion and birth control.
The Resource Center — which advertises free tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases to University of Northern Colorado students with the slogan and domain name “Tests4Greeley” — filed a trademark complaint against an abortion-rights site called “Truth4Greeley.”
The case was settled recently through arbitration, using a panel that specializes in website disputes. The arbiter wrote that shutting down the activist-run website would not “be justified in a society that prides itself on allowing the free exchange of views and opinions.”
“It would be a very bold decision to deprive a party of a domain name which is being used for the dissemination of news, information and opinion and which is not otherwise contrary to the law,” the ruling stated.
The Truth4Greeley website launched last fall in response to the anti-abortion center’s advertising on and around the UNC campus. Billboards and bus benches showed a worried-looking young woman with the words, “Pregnant? Free tests. Private. Medical.”
The Truth4Greeley website — filled with testimonials from UNC students who went to the pregnancy center near campus not realizing it was a religious-based counseling center — was created by a recent UNC graduate and intern for Cobalt, a Colorado abortion-rights organization and operator of a “freedom fund” that pays for travel and abortions for those who don’t have access in their community.
Website creator Abigail Hutchings also posted the story of a student activist who went to the center pretending she was pregnant and recorded an hour-long counseling session with her iPhone. And the website blasts The Resource Center’s claims that it provides medical services.
Hutchings called it “pretty ironic” that The Resource Center accused her of copying its website when she has been calling out the center, and others around the state, for what she sees as deceptive practices. The Resource Center’s name and branding were similar to the former Women’s Resource Center, now called the Center for Women’s and Gender Equality, at UNC.
“One of the tactics that these anti-abortion counseling centers use is making themselves look like the nearest abortion clinic,” she said.
Colorado has more than 50 religious-based pregnancy centers that encourage women to keep their babies or link them with adoption agencies. In five rural counties, the only pregnancy center or clinic is a faith-based one, according to a Colorado Sun investigation published in December.
Requests for comment from The Resource Center and the attorney who handled the trademark case were not returned. The matter was settled by Minneapolis-based FORUM, which specializes in Internet copyright claims.
Cobalt president Karen Middleton said the ruling has only served to embolden the organization’s future plans to expose what she calls “fake clinics” throughout Colorado.
“My hope is that this is the first of a pattern, and that we will continue to push against these attacks on access to reproductive health information,” she said.