In November 2009, we wrote about a Baltimore, MD, ordinance requiring crisis pregnancy centers to provide a disclaimer to potential customers stating the services provided at the center as well as services the center did not provide, such as abortion care.
Yesterday, the Women’s Health Policy Report reported that a federal court has ruled that the ordinance is unconstitutional. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns challenged the ordinance, claiming that it violated the freedom of speech clause in the First Amendment. The court wrote:
“Whether a provider of pregnancy-related services is ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice,’ it is for the provider — not the government — to decide when and how to discuss abortion and birth-control method. The government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, require a ‘pro-life’ pregnancy-related service center to post a sign.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights and City of Baltimore are expected to appeal this decision.
The National Abortion Federation reports that it’s common for lawsuits to be brought against CPCs. Various attorneys have been successful in challenging these centers’ use of public funding under the First Amendment’s establishment of separation between church and state. In some states, attorneys have been victorious in changing the deceptive names of CPCs. Several states have almost identical laws to the Baltimore Ordinance.
In 1998, NAF’s Family Research Report showed that women faced with unwanted pregnancies often looked in the yellow pages for phrases and words like ‘clinic,’ ‘women’s center,’ and ‘medical,’ all words which CPCs use in advertisements. This ruling against the Baltimore Ordinance provides a setback to women’s rights to obtain truthful information about CPC services and ultimately condones CPCs’ tactics of harassing, bullying, and giving blatantly false information to women facing unplanned pregnancies.