New York City Faces Lawsuit if Anti-Pregnancy Center Bill OKd

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 17, 2010   |   7:50PM   |   New York, NY

A pro-life legal group said new York City officials 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 city council is considering a measure, debated fiercely by both sides of the abortion debate yesterday in a hearing, 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 C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, and Councilwoman Jessica S. Lappin are behind the proposed ordinance.

But the American Center for Law and Justice told today it will bring a legal challenge against the city “if a pro-abortion measure is passed that unfairly and unconstitutionally targets pro-life crisis pregnancy centers.”

The ACLJ presented testimony yesterday before the Women’s Issue Committee of the New York City Council opposing a measure that would require the centers “to comply with costly and burdensome requirements – requirements that don’t apply to pro-abortion centers,” it said.

“This proposal clearly violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and New York State law,” said CeCe Heil, the ACLJ senior counsel. “By targeting only the pro-life centers, this measure unconstitutionally and illegally compels, and simultaneously censors, specific speech on the basis of view-point.”

“Without question, such discrimination is clearly prohibited. In addition, the bill violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by singling out these pro-life centers for discriminatory treatment and by subjecting them to vague speech requirements under the threat of criminal and financial penalties,” she said.

Heil added that the measure is political in nature and not proposed by city officials who want to provide legitimate medical support for women.

“It’s clear the pro-abortion lobby – Planned Parenthood and NARAL – is behind this effort,” she told

The ACLJ represents the interests of 13 of the 23 pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in New York City and a petition it sponsored supporting the centers has received the signatures of 25,000 people.

“The question remains: will members of the New York City Council abide by their oath of office to be vigilant protectors of liberty and freedom?” said Heil.  “If they fail to reject this discriminatory measure, we will take legal action challenging this unconstitutional attempt to punish pro-life centers.”

The bill would make pregnancy centers include information in their ads saying they do not give out the morning after pill or make abortion referrals. It would also require them to post the signs with the disclaimers at the entrance of their clinic and in patient waiting and exam rooms. The signs must also say whether or not a licensed medical professional is on staff, though that is frequently the case with many centers.

The bill contains no similar proposal for abortion businesses.

The New York City Council is moving in the same direction as local officials in Baltimore, Maryland and Austin, Texas.

Baltimore officials approved a sign ordinance there, although the centers, with the help of the Catholic Archdiocese, have filed a lawsuit to overturn the ordinance.

On April 8, pro-abortion Austin City Council members introduced an ordinance to require pregnancy centers to display similar signs.

The ordinance requires pregnancy centers to prominently display, at the entrance of their office, two black and white signs — one in English and one in Spanish — saying: “This center does not provide abortions or refer to abortion providers. This center does not provide or refer to providers of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved birth control drugs and medical devices.” [related]

In Baltimore, pro-life city council members attempted to get their colleagues to approve an amendment to the ordinance requiring abortion centers to post similar signs saying they do not provide or refer to places that provide abortion alternatives or pregnancy support. Members of the Baltimore city council rejected the amendment.