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UPDATE 1-Texas sues Yelp over notices about crisis pregnancy centers

(Recasts with Texas lawsuit against Yelp)

By Brendan Pierson

Sept 28 (Reuters) - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Yelp Inc on Thursday for allegedly misleading consumers by posting notices on its business review website stating that crisis pregnancy centers provide limited medical services.

In the lawsuit, filed in the district court of Bastrop County, Texas, Paxton, a Republican, accused the California-based company of violating a Texas law against unfair business practices.

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.

The lawsuit comes a day after Yelp preemptively sued Paxton in San Francisco federal court in an effort to ward off his action. Yelp argued that its notices were true, not misleading, and protected free speech under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In August 2022, Yelp began posting a notice on crisis pregnancy centers' pages stating: "This is a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Crisis Pregnancy Centers typically provide limited medical services and may not have licensed medical professionals onsite."

In February, Paxton and other Republican state attorneys general told Yelp the notice was misleading because it was posted on pages of centers that did have licensed medical professionals.

The company, without conceding that the language was misleading, changed the notices to state that crisis pregnancy centers "do not offer abortions or referrals to abortion providers." Paxton said at the time that the new language was accurate.

In his lawsuit on Thursday, Paxton said: "Defendant's misrepresentations and failure to disclose the presence of licensed medical professionals at pregnancy resource centers dissuaded consumers from visiting these clinics in favor of clinics that perform abortion services."

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money damages.

Yelp had asked the San Francisco federal court for an order finding that it would be unconstitutional for Paxton to sue over the notices, and blocking him from doing so. There has not yet been any order in that case.

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, Bill Berkrot and Rami Ayyub)