Yelp Inc is asking a federal court to stop Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from suing it over notices telling its users that crisis pregnancy centers do not provide abortions or referrals for abortions.
In a complaint filed on Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco, the online business review site operator said Paxton, a Republican, told it last week that he intended to bring a lawsuit under Texas’s unfair business practices law. The company said its notices are true, not misleading, and are protected free speech under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Crisis pregnancy centers offer pregnant women counseling while seeking to prevent them from having abortions. Generally, they do not clearly advertise their anti-abortion stance.
In August 2022, Yelp began posting a notice on crisis pregnancy centers’ pages stating that they “typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite.”
The company said in the complaint that it posted the notices to prevent users from being misled by crisis pregnancy centers that deliberately targeted women seeking abortions.
In February, in response to a complaint by Paxton, the company changed the notices to state that crisis pregnancy centers “do not offer abortions or referrals to abortion providers.” Paxton’s office said in a press release at the time that the new language was accurate.
According to Wednesday’s lawsuit, Paxton nonetheless informed Yelp on Sept. 22 that he intended to sue the company for posting misleading notices in violation of the state’s law on unfair business practice, and seeking up to $10,000 per violation.
“Notably, the letter does not confine its threat to Yelp’s ‘violations’ in Texas, but seeks to punish editorial choices – made by a California company – globally,” Yelp said. The company is asking the court to declare that Paxton’s proposed lawsuit would be unconstitutional and to block him from filing it.
Paxton was acquitted earlier this month of corruption allegations in an impeachment trial in the Texas state senate, after having been suspended from his post since May.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot)