Baltimore Archdiocese Sues City over New Law Targeting Pregnancy Centers

State   Steven Ertelt   Mar 30, 2010   |   9:00AM    WASHINGTON, DC

Baltimore Archdiocese Sues City over New Law Targeting Pregnancy Centers

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 30
, 2010

Baltimore, MD (LifeNews.com) — The Archdiocese of Baltimore filed a federal lawsuit against the Maryland city yesterday over a law that attacks pregnancy centers that help women find abortion alternatives. Last year, the city passed the new ordinance that fines pregnancy centers $150 per day if they don’t post a sign saying they do not do abortions.

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the former city council president who is now the mayor, sponsored the measure that the city council approved on a 12-3 vote.

The council defeated an amendment to the bill that would have required abortion businesses to post a similar sign confirming they do not provide abortion alternatives.

Now, the Catholic diocese has filed suit saying the law violates the free speech rights of the centers and church members.

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien said the law "is hurting the good people volunteering and giving so much of their resources to come to the help of pregnant women," according to the Baltimore Sun newspaper.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, says the law unfairly targets the centers rather than applying to medical facilities as a whole.

Thomas J. Schetelich, chairman of the board for the Center for Pregnancy Concerns, told the newspaper it doesn’t make sense why Baltimore officials want to target the centers instead of assisting them as they provide women legitimate alternatives and assistance during an unplanned pregnancy.

"Frankly, we would expect our city government to be supporting our sacrificial efforts rather than trying to hinder," Schetelich said. "We’re disappointed that our stand for life draws opposition.

Carol A. Clews, executive director of Center for Pregnancy Concerns, joined Schetelich and O’Brien at a Monday news conference announcing the lawsuit, which archdiocesan attorneys will handle at no cost to the centers.

"We have many of our clients fill out evaluations after they’ve been helped," she said, according to the newspaper. "We do not now or have we ever had complaints from clients about being misled in any way or problems with the services they’ve received.

Leading pro-life advocates are concerned the ordinance will become a growing phenomenon.

Melinda Delahoyde, the president of Care Net, a national network of pregnancy centers, told LifeNews.com that the new law is “nonsensical,” “unwarranted,” and “discriminatory.”

Delahoyde said the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute noted the abortion rate in the U.S. has decreased nine percent since 2000 to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 2005.

On the other hand, Maryland in 2005 had a rate of 31.5 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age, an increase of eight percent since 1992.

“Pregnancy centers help to reduce abortions by providing free, compassionate support and practical help to women facing unplanned pregnancies. For nearly 30 years, the first center Care Net opened, the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, has been faithfully serving the women of Baltimore," the women’s leader told LifeNews.com today.

“In this economy, and with abortion on the rise, wouldn’t it make more sense for the Baltimore City Council to pass a resolution praising the contribution of pregnancy centers, which rely solely on charitable contributions, not on state or local funding?" she asked.

Delahoyde also said the city council supported the bill to please Planned Parenthood and NARAL, the pro-abortion advocacy groups that advocated for the measure to hurt pregnancy centers.

"Not one client has ever complained about their experience there. So, why was the bill introduced, other than to satisfy the demands of an abortion lobbying group?" she asked.

“Sadly, this bill sends a message to city residents that local pregnancy centers may not be completely forthcoming about their services. This couldn’t be further from the truth and is an affront to women who rely on their support," she added.

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