New York City to Vote on Bill Bashing Pregnancy Centers

State   Steven Ertelt   Feb 28, 2011   |   8:43PM    New York, NY

The New York City council will vote on Wednesday on a bill 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 are behind the proposed ordinance. Should the measure be approved, one pro-life legal group is planning to sue the city over the law.

Christopher Slattery of Expectant Mother Care-EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers has been working overtime to put public pressure on the council members to vote against the pro-abortion ordinance.

“This is it. The moment we feared most, and tried to prevent,” he told LifeNews.com on Sunday. “This coming Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 is the final vote by the full NYC City Council on Bill #371 which will regulate the advertising, signage, and the speech with clients of all the individual crisis pregnancy center groups in the five boroughs.”

“If City Council leader Christine Quinn succeeds in passing Bill #371, it will be devastating,” he said. “We need to make a final, valiant and prayerful push, and to rally one more time for Life, for truth and for freedom. To uphold the 1st Amendment. To protect our freedom to speak without government interference. To serve expectant mothers, and help their children vulnerable to abortion, without threat of fines, lawsuits, and closure.”

Slattery 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.”

The Vitae Foundation is also urging calls and emails to members of the city council for a no vote.

“Next Wednesday the New York City Council will vote on an ordinance that will force Pregnancy Help Centers to post disclaimers about the services they do not provide (including abortion), control what is said to women who contact the centers, cripple the Vitae Foundation’s life-saving advertising efforts, and more,” the group said in an email to LifeNews.com. “Tragically, the result will be women will not get the help they need and countless babies will be killed by abortion.”

“If this unconstitutional restriction on the free speech of pro-lifers is not defeated then similar life-threatening ordinances could be passed across the country,” the group added. “We have already seen such laws enacted in Maryland and Texas and one is now pending in Seattle.  We need to stop this injustice in New York City before it spreads even further. The bottom line is women facing unwanted pregnancies need to hear about the good options they have and see an ultrasound image of their babies.  This will be stifled if the New York City ordinance goes into effect.”

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.”

The ACLJ presented testimony during the hearing 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.

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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.

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.

Judge Garbis in Baltimore 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.