Despite massive opposition from pro-life advocates and supporters of centers helping pregnant women, the New York City council passed a bill today attacking pregnancy centers.
On a 39-9-1 vote, council members approved an ordinance that would place stringent limits on the advertising pregnancy centers use and require them to post signs designed to dissuade women from seeking their abortion alternatives services.
Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker, and Councilwoman Jessica Lappin sponsored the measure, which Mayor Mike Bloomberg will definitely sign and which is expected to be the subject of a lawsuit from pro-life advocates.
“Let me be clear. In this legislation we are not targeting pregnancy centers in order to shut them down or interfere with any counseling that they want to provide,” Quinn claimed. “We just want them to be honest and to say what their services are, and not to deceive women and make women believe, based on all logical information, that they are in a doctor’s office when they are not.”
Queens Councilman Dan Halloran opposed the measure, according to a NY1 report.
“It is time for the left to realize that if you want true choice, it means two sides to an equation,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for and that’s what my colleagues and I will stand up against. And believe me, this will not end here today. I have no delusion that the speaker has lined up sufficient votes to make this happen. But the courts will speak tomorrow, and the courts will say, this is not constitutional. This is an abridgement of our First Amendment rights, and we’re not going to stand for it.”
Responding to the vote, Melinda Delahoyde, the vice president of CareNet, a network of more than 1,100 pregnancy centers nationwide, told LifeNews.com that it “sends an alarming signal that abortion rates in New York City could skyrocket even further.”
“According to recent CDC reports, 41 percent of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion, with the highest impact on African American and Hispanic communities,” she noted. “Somewhere along the way members of the City Council lost sight of the beauty of human life and the importance of welcoming and supporting each new member of this city into life with open arms.”
Care Net’s Vice President of Underserved Outreach Rev. Dean Nelson lamented the impact that this bill would have on existing and future pregnancy centers in the New York City region.
“Hundreds of thousands of African American boys, girls, men and women are missing in New York City because of the impact of abortion,” said Rev. Nelson in a statement to LifeNews.com. “Even though it appears that many on the City Council are beholden to the interests of abortion advocates, it doesn’t prevent the rest of the city from rising up and saying ‘enough, we can and must do better than this.’”
Nelson is leading a national effort to partner with African American pastors and other community leaders to develop pregnancy centers in minority communities targeted by abortion providers.
The pregnancy center group says the bill, Int. No. 371, forces pregnancy centers to comply with onerous regulations, including posting and orally stating a disclaimer regarding the services they do not offer, namely abortion and contraception, and stating whether or not a medical provider is on site. The bill also opens up the center to costly lawsuits by providing a private right of action by aggrieved persons.
The bill is part of a nationwide campaign by abortion industry advocates to publicly attack and ultimately shut down entities like pregnancy centers that support abortion alternatives, Care Net says.
In November, a pro-life legal group said New York City officials holding a hearing on the measure should keep in mind its promise that the city would face a lawsuit if the city council moves ahead with a bill attacking pregnancy centers.
The American Center for Law and Justice told LifeNews it would bring a legal challenge against the city “if a pro-abortion measure is passed that unfairly and unconstitutionally targets pro-life crisis pregnancy centers.”
Should the New York measure go to court, pro-life attorneys will likely cite the precedent established in another state. In January, a federal judge struck down a Baltimore law that was the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Archdiocese of Baltimore because it unfairly attacks pregnancy centers that provide women with abortion alternatives.
The judge granted summary judgment finding the anti-pregnancy center law is viewpoint-based and impermissible to render constitution under the First Amendment. He dismissed without prejudice all other claims and found a couple of the plaintiffs lacked standing (including the Archbishop and the Catholic church that provides space for one of the pregnancy centers that filed suit) but the ruling is viewed as a substantial victory by pro-life advocates.
Christopher Slattery of Expectant Mother Care-EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers in New York says the record of success at the centers proves how much they are needed in America’s largest city. They provide free services inside 12 centers and clinics in five counties and on the streets of the South Bronx with their mobile clinics including free ultrasounds, subsidized pre-natal care, supplies for moms and kids, ongoing care and love, adoption aid and spiritual guidance. He estimates anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 women will be helped at the centers in 2011 “who would otherwise fall prey to the largest concentration of abortion centers in the United States.”
Care Net legal counsel Jeanneane Maxon said the New York City bill is “another blatant example of unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination which should be subject to a court challenge.”
ACTION: Contact members of the council at http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml