ACLU: Abortion Bill Targeting Pregnancy Centers Constitutional, Won’t Support

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 4, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

ACLU: Abortion Bill Targeting Pregnancy Centers Constitutional, Won’t Support

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 4, 2006

Washington, DC ( — The ACLU has determined that a Congressional measure targeting pregnancy centers is constitutional but its board of directors has decided not to back the bill because it likely has no chance of being approved.

The new report on the bill from the pro-abortion legal firm comes after a controversy which saw ACLU staff join pro-abortion groups in supporting the bill while key members of its board opposed it.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, pro-abortion New York congresswoman, would prohibit crisis pregnancy centers from advertising themselves as abortion facilities. When she announced her legislation, Maloney provided no examples of any pregnancy centers engaging in so-called false advertising.

The measure would subject advertising by pregnancy centers to regulation from the Federal Trade Commission.

Vivian Berger, one of four lawyers who serve as the ACLU’s general counsel, told the New York Sun yesterday, "We said that the bill, on its face, was not an unconstitutional abridgment of free speech since the offer of abortion services by people who don’t provide such services is not protected."

Berger admitted to the Sun that the group’s traditional stance in favor of any free speech has the possibility of being trumped by its abortion advocacy.

"It’s certainly true that it isn’t usually our bread and butter to take a position that affirmatively supports legislation that even arguably could be viewed as impinging on speech, but, on the other hand, we have a very strong commitment to abortion rights," she said.

Other scholars disagree that the measure is constitutional and Eugene Volokh of the University of California at Los Angeles, told the Sun that legislation violates First Amendment rights because the bill doesn’t just cover abortions but also abortion referrals, which could include free counseling or advice.

While free speech rights don’t extend to false advertising, they do extend to speech that doesn’t involve commerce, he said.

According to the Sun, the controversy over the conflicting ACLU views on the bill continued at an April 23 board meeting.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, expressed his frustration that some board members would speak publicly in opposition to the bill while the ACLU itself supported it.

While the ACLU has taken down from its web site a press release supporting the measure, it recently told Maloney’s office it still supports the bill.