NEW YORK, March 16, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The mayor of New York City has signed a controversial gag rule against pro-life pregnancy resource centers that local advocates have vowed to challenge in court.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Initiative 371-A Wednesday afternoon. “This is a sad day for free speech” said Chris Slattery, founder of Expectant Mother Care and a top New York City pro-life advocate. The law, which had been passed by the city council last month in a 39-9-1 vote gives local authorities “unbridled discretion” against the pregnancy resource centers said Slattery.
The law, similar to one in Maryland recently deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge, forces pro-life pregnancy centers to prominently display whether they perform abortions in both English and Spanish at their entrances, as well as on all promotional material.
Any pregnancy center in violation of the rule would be liable for up to a $1000 fine for a first offense, and up to $2,500 for subsequent offenses, as well as up to six months imprisonment.
Slattery accused the law of what local abortion advocates have praised it for: providing a leg-up to the already booming abortion industry by drawing vulnerable women away from pro-life resources. Recently it was revealed that the abortion rate in the city is 41%, soaring far above the national average.
“Abortion businesses are furious with us, we hurt their business,” Slattery told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN).
There are estimated to be about 45 licensed abortion clinics in the city, versus about 24 pro-life pregnancy resource centers. Slattery operates a pro-life center across the street from the largest Planned Parenthood, in Brooklyn, where it is stationed in the same building as two abortion centers.
Slattery, who plans to challenge the law in court, told LSN that the bill is also problematic because it forbids pregnancy centers from reporting sex abuse without a child’s consent. The only exceptions are in cases of children 12 or younger who are victims of incest.
Slattery said his group has been operating 26 years without one state department of health complaint, has served over 110,000 young girls and women, two thirds of whom were pregnant. Of those abortion minded, he said, 40,000 are believed to have chosen life.
The new law is set to go into effect in 120 days.