August 17, 2012 — A federal appeals court on Wednesday granted a new hearing in a case over a Baltimore ordinance requiring crisis pregnancy centers to post disclaimers, voiding an earlier decision by a three-judge panel from the same court, the Baltimore Sun's "Picture of Health" reports (Walker, "Picture of Health," Baltimore Sun, 8/16).
The ordinance (FID 09-0406) requires "limited-service pregnancy centers" to post signs in English and Spanish stating what services they provide -- such as maternity and infant supplies, prenatal care and adoption referrals -- and what they do not offer, including abortion care. Centers that fail to comply within 10 days of being cited by city inspectors could be fined $150 per day.
In June, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to uphold a lower court's ruling against the ordinance. The ordinance was approved in 2009 but had not been enforced because of the court proceedings (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/2).
The judges did not give a reason for granting a new hearing, which is scheduled for Dec. 6. Suzanne Sangree, Baltimore's chief solicitor, said it is unusual for the 4th Circuit to grant a rehearing.
City officials and the Center for Reproductive Rights argue that CPCs are nonmedical facilities that promote themselves as reproductive health clinics and then attempt to talk women out of obtaining abortion or contraceptive care.
City Solicitor George Nilson in a statement said that "the city seeks to remedy the confusion and deception created by deceptive publicity [by CPCs] which causes women to mistakenly go to the centers." He added, "The city simply aims to prevent women who seek abortion or comprehensive contraception from being delayed in accessing these time-sensitive health services by going to a center that does not provide those services."
CPCs and their supporters, including Catholic leaders, maintain that the centers offer women needed support and that the law unfairly targets organizations that oppose abortion rights ("Picture of Health," Baltimore Sun, 8/16).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership