Setback for Baltimore Ordinance Requiring Truth from Crisis Pregnancy Centers

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.

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1 Response to Setback for Baltimore Ordinance Requiring Truth from Crisis Pregnancy Centers

  1. Susan Frietsche says:

    In Pennsylvania as in many other states, abortion providers are required to tell patients a whole list of prescribed information, even if the provider doesn’t believe the information to be true, relevant, or helpful to that particular patient. For example, the provider has to tell the patient that Medical Assistance benefits may be available to pay for childbirth-related medical expenses, even if the provider knows that Medical Assistance benefits are in fact NOT available for that particular patient. It’s hard to square this recent ruling with our abortion laws. Why is it unconstitutional to require a crisis pregnancy center to post a little sign disclosing basic information about its services, but perfectly OK to force abortion providers to distort their relationship with their patients through these detailed–and biased–forced counseling laws?

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