Austin Forced to Pay Pregnancy Centers $461,000 After Trying to Shut Them Down

State   Sarah Zagorski   Aug 26, 2015   |   6:52PM    Austin, TX

In Texas, the city of Austin will pay $461,000 in attorney fees after trying to force five pregnancy resource centers to place signs up indicating their clinics are not legitimate. The plaintiffs co-council from the Liberty Institute, Jeff Mateer, said, “They are all ministries. They are all religious-based. By being forced to post the sign outside, that was going to be the first encounter with a woman, and it was the government message that was false and misleading. It would then impact their ability to do their ministry.”

In October 2011, Texas Lawyer reports the pregnancy centers sued the city of Austin, their council members and the city manager over an ordinance called, “Limited Service Pregnancy Centers,” which required their clinics to post signs outside or face criminal offenses. The ordinance concerned any pregnancy centers that provided ultrasounds and pregnancy tests but did not have a full-time, licensed physician on location.

The pregnancy centers argued that the ordinance was unconstitutional because it violated rights to free speech, equal protection and due process under the U.S. Constitution and free exercise of religion. They also said the ordinance was too vague because it did not define full-time physician or medical services. Thankfully, in June 2014, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the ordinance was indeed vague and rendered it unconstitutional.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman said the following about the ordinance: “Political allies of abortionists shouldn’t be allowed to use the law as a tool to attack pregnancy care centers, which offer real help and hope to women. As the district court found, Austin’s ordinance was so vague that it allowed the city dangerous latitude in punishing pro-life organizations. Courts around the country have been striking these types of laws down, and this decision joins the growing list.”

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As LifeNews previously reported, this lawsuit against PRCs proves the abortion industry feels threatened by pro-life groups that offer abortion alternatives to women. The Vice President of Americans United for Life, William Saunders, said, “Clearly, the abortion industry feels threatened by the success of PRCs. After all, every time an abortion-minded woman changes her mind and carries her child to term, the abortion industry loses money and loses the hearts of minds of more Americans.”

Saunders also pointed out that PRCs are often able to change women’s minds about abortion, which in turn hurts the abortion industry’s bottom line. He explained, “In 2004, Focus on the Family (Focus) initiated a program to help convert PRCs into medical clinics that offer ultrasound – a window into the womb. Focus estimates that at least 133,000 babies have been saved since that time. Planned Parenthood estimates that an abortion costs between $300 and $950 in the first trimester. Assuming Focus’ estimate is correct and assuming even the lowest cost, Focus’ success represents a loss of almost 40 million dollars for the abortion industry.”

Additionally, statistics show that 78% of women who see an ultrasound of their baby at a PRC rejects abortion and goes on to have their child. In fact, former abortionist Joseph Randall once said abortion facilities didn’t show women ultrasounds of their baby because they knew it discouraged them from going through with the procedure. He explained, “They [the women] are never allowed to look at the ultrasound because we knew that if they so much as heard the heart beat, they wouldn’t want to have an abortion.”

Here’s more about the Austin case:

The plaintiffs sought more than $997,000 in attorney fees to compensate 10 attorneys for a combined 3,177 hours of work, said a July 28, 2014 plaintiffs’ joint application for attorney fees. The attorneys were trying to charge rates ranging from $250 to $550.

The city opposed the fee request, arguing that the amount was unjustifiably high, said an Aug. 11, 2014, response to plaintiffs’ joint application for attorney fees and expenses. Among other things, the city claimed that the lawyers “failed to exercise billing judgment,” and were trying to bill hours for work that was “excessive, repetitive or unproductive.”

The parties agreed on the settlement after mediation.

“They went through the mediation process, and they were able to arrive at that number,” said Alicia Dean, a city spokeswoman.

Hiram Sasser, deputy chief counsel of the Liberty Institute, said that the organization would divide the city’s settlement among the lawyers and other firms that worked on the case. “It was in the best interests of everyone to move on,” Sasser said. “We were able to resolve it in a friendly way, and we always try to do that.”

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