Baltimore Law Attacking Pregnancy Centers Subject of Hearing Before Judge
by Steven Ertelt
August 5, 2010
Baltimore, MD (LifeNews.com) — A federal judge held a hearing on a lawsuit filed by the Archdiocese of Baltimore 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.
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.
U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis held a hearing yesterday on the city’s request to approve a motion dismissing the lawsuit. The law was to take effect in January and it has already been put on hold until December for the legal case to proceed.
Attorney David Kinkopf for the Archdiocese said the pregnancy centers should not be required to promote abortion because it violates their religious beliefs. He also said the pregnancy centers, and it runs three of the ones in town, should not be targeted while abortion centers are not.
"It’s only about abortion," Kinkopf said, according to the Baltimore Sun. "And it’s only about who is opposed to abortion."
Suzanne Sangree, chief solicitor for the city, argued the signs are no different from ones bars must post saying they will not serve minors alcohol.
"That doesn’t mean that they think it is good to sell to minors," she said.
The Sun indicated Judge Garbis is expected to issue a ruling in the next few months and that he said during the hearing that people should know what pregnancy centers offer but believes the law serves a public interest in the same way laws require credit card companies to disclose information to the public.
"The sign doesn’t say anything that is against [the church’s] religious beliefs," Garbis said, according to the newspaper.
But Sean Caine, Communications Director of the Archdiocese, says the law forces centers to say they don’t provide birth control, when they actually do.
"They provide education on abstinence," he told WAMU. "They also provide information about natural family planning, which are both medically recognized as forms of birth control."
Carol A. Clews, executive director of Center for Pregnancy Concerns, has talked about how the law will hurt her center and how former clients in no way feel deceived.
"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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