Featured Image

BALTIMORE, October 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life women’s pregnancy centers may be nearing the end of a five-year legal battle against the city of Baltimore, which passed an ordinance requiring them to post signs they say would discourage women from availing themselves of the help the centers offer.

A federal judge ruled the city cannot force crisis pregnancy centers to post signs telling clients they do not provide or refer for surgical or medical abortions.

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis, who was appointed to the bench by President George H.W. Bush, issued a summary judgement in favor of the pro-life movement in Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore.

“No American should be forced to promote activities or speak messages that violate their deepest convictions, as Baltimore’s ordinance required,” said Matt Bowman, legal counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom. An ADF-allied attorney, Mark Rienzi, represented the CPCs in the case.

Courts have consistently ruled that the government cannot enforce “compelled speech” ordinances, legal experts have told LifeSiteNews, requiring them to post signs or otherwise convey a message that opposes their deep-seated views.

Supporters of abortion-on-demand defended the ordinance while accusing pro-life women’s centers of purveying lies and falsehood. “Baltimore’s ordinance is a common sense measure designed to protect consumers from a long-standing and documented pattern of deceptive practices by crisis pregnancy centers,” said Stephanie Toti, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has been party to the lawsuit.

While the city may appeal the order, Bowman called the judgment an “important First Amendment victory.” 

The region has hosted over a similar law targeting Centro Tepeyac Silver Spring Women's Center in the D.C. suburbs.

U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow, a 1993 Bill Clinton judicial appointee, permanently barred the Montgomery County, Maryland, from enforcing any part of an anti-CPC law, which required Centro Tepeyac to tell women it had no licensed medical practitioner on staff.

Ultimately, she ordered the county to pay $375,000 in damages, attorney's fees, and court costs.

An investigation by LifeSiteNews found that county officials colluded with NARAL in crafting the ordinance, a recurring pattern in laws or lawsuits attempting to stifle right to life advocates.

Judges have struck down similar laws silencing pro-life believers – and preventing them from delivering care to hurting mothers – around the nation. Judge Lee Yeakel ruled in 2014 that Austin City Code Chapter 10-09, requiring pregnancy centers to post signs in English and Spanish saying they do not offer abortions or birth control, worked in a “discriminatory manner” to suppress pro-life speech.

“This decision underscores that the pro-abortion industry may not use the law to silence their opposition,” said Stephen Casey, co-founder of the Texas Center for Defense of Life (TCDL) at the time. “Every life is valuable and the volunteers and staff of pregnancy resource centers make sacrifices daily to serve these women and babies in need.”

The ADF is currently litigating against similar laws in California in Illinois, “seeking to protect the constitutionally protected freedoms of other pregnancy resource centers that are being threatened by the government,” said Bowman.