August 5, 2010 — In federal court on Wednesday, Baltimore attorneys defended a city law requiring crisis pregnancy centers to post signs stating that they do not provide abortion and birth control services or referrals for such services, the Baltimore Sun reports. The Archdiocese of Baltimore -- which helps run three CPCs in Baltimore -- is challenging the law as a violation of the church's First Amendment rights.
The first-in-the-nation ordinance was passed in November 2009 and was supposed to take effect in January. However, the law was put on hold until December after the church's lawsuit was filed. The law requires "limited-service pregnancy centers" to post signs in English and Spanish stating what services they provide -- including maternity and infant supplies, prenatal care and adoption referrals -- and what they do not offer, such as abortion care. Centers that fail to comply within 10 days of being cited by city inspectors could be fined $150 per day.
During the first day of arguments on a motion to dismiss the church's legal challenge, attorneys for the city argued that the signs protect women who seek pregnancy information from being misled by the centers.
David Kinkopf, an attorney for the archdiocese, said the church is being targeted because of certain reproductive health services that it does not recognize as options for women. He added that other organizations are not required to offer alternative services, such as adoption (Jones, Baltimore Sun, 8/4). Kinkopf said, "They care that we talk about abortion and we talk about it with a certain viewpoint," adding, "It's viewpoint discrimination. It's content-based."
Suzanne Sangree, chief solicitor for the city, said the ordinance simply requires CPCs to post "accurate information about the nature of the services provided" (Nuckols, AP/Carroll County Times, 8/4).
U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis said he believes people should know what services CPCs offer, adding that the required sign "doesn't say anything that is against (the church's) religious beliefs" (Baltimore Sun, 8/4). Garbis added, "Every woman who goes into a clinic should know that she's going to a clinic that does not refer for abortions" (AP/Carroll County Times, 8/4). The Sun reports that Garbis is expected to rule on the motion in the coming months (Baltimore Sun, 8/4).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, 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