Battle to block NYC pregnancy centers gag law hits federal court

New York passed the measure in March to force all of the city's pro-life pregnancy centers to clearly advertise that they do not provide abortions.
By Kathleen Gilbert

By Kathleen Gilbert

NEW YORK, June 15, 2011 ( - Supporters of pro-life pregnancy centers have filed motions to block a new ordinance in New York City that would undermine the centers’ ability to help women find alternatives to abortion.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) and the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) have asked for a preliminary injunction against implementation of the NYC Pregnancy Services Center Local Law 17 on behalf of three local crisis pregnancy center operators.

The New York City Council passed the measure in March to force all of the city’s approximately two dozen pro-life pregnancy centers to clearly advertise that they do not provide abortions. ACLJ lawyers immediately filed a federal lawsuit against the ordinance.

Oral arguments regarding the injunction will be heard in lower Manhattan Wednesday afternoon. 

Similar legislation passed in Baltimore in 2009 was struck down in two separate decisions by federal judges in Maryland as a violation of First Amendment-protected rights. In that case, the City of Baltimore had agreed not to enforce the law until the judge issued a ruling.

“There’s a concerted effort on behalf of pro-abortion organizations to systematically target and punish crisis pregnancy centers in cities across America,” said CeCe Heil, senior counsel of the ACLJ. “The Baltimore ordinance was the first of its kind, and now other cities are following suit.”

In a video published last month, NARAL Pro-Choice New York revealed that it was engaging a national strategy to hamstring the work of urban pregnancy resource centers across America with similar legislation.

In a press release Wednesday, local pro-life activists said they have uncovered video of NYC Speaker Christine Quinn showing that she pushed the legislation as retaliation for U.S. House Republicans’ attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

“This legislation aims to deny access to free information, assistance, and ultrasounds to pregnant women in need,” stated EMC Frontline plaintiff Chris Slattery.  “Our video crews captured Speaker Quinn and other members of the City Council expressing their true motivation for this outrageous, unconstitutional law. 

“The real tragedy is that 41% of all pregnancies in NYC end with the death of an unborn child.”

Slattery is Founder and Director of EMC/ Frontline Pregnancy Centers, which operates 12 walk-in locations in New York City.

On Tuesday, Mailee Smith, staff counsel for Americans United for Life, wrote in a Washington Times op-ed that the abortion lobby’s reason for targeting the non-profit centers is obvious: pro-life pregnancy centers pose a direct threat to the lucrative abortion industry.

“It’s no wonder. Pregnancy care centers - and the compassionate and nonjudgmental services they offer - undercut the abortion industry’s bottom line,” wrote Smith. “If women hear the truth about abortion and understand that they truly have a life-affirming choice, the abortion industry’s profits will decrease.”

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