New York Mayor Bloomberg Signs Bill Hurting Pregnancy Centers

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 16, 2011   |   4:16PM   |   Washington, DC

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill today that adversely affects pregnancy centers that the city council approved and that is expected to quickly become the subject of a lawsuit.

Earlier this month, on a  39-9-1 vote, council members approved an ordinance 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.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a pro-life law firm, had threatened to file a lawsuit against the city if Bloomberg signs the bill into law. But, before doing so, it delivered a letter to the mayor on behalf of EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers, a chain of a dozen pregnancy centers in the Big Apple, asking for a formal hearing on the ordinance required under city statutes.

Bloomberg appeared to ignore the letter and signed the bill into law today at a public signing ceremony for three pieces of legislation.

“To ensure that women are fully informed of the services provided by pregnancy service centers, this bill requires the centers to inform their clients whether they have a licensed medical provider on staff and disclose whether they provide certain pregnancy-related services or not.  This bill also requires centers to provide confidentiality protections for their clients’ personal and health information,” he said before signing the bill.

Responding to the signing, Chris Slattery, the head of the EMC pregnancy center group, told a lawsuit is forthcoming.

“EMC FrontLine is planning to sue the City of New York next week seeking a preliminary injunction against the new Pregnancy Services regulation Bill signed into law by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, this afternoon,” he said. “The law is a gross violation of our 1st and 14th Amendment rights, and we are buoyed by the second federal court decision declaring the 2nd similar CPC regulation bill in Montgomery County, Maryland, almost completely unconstitutional, just today.”

Bloomberg thanked the council for approving the legislation and singled out Speaker Quinn and Council Members Lappin, Arroyo, Ferreras, Mendez, Garodnick, Reyna, Foster, Brewer, Fidler, James, Koppell, Koslowitz, Lander, Palma, Rose, Van Bramer, Rodriguez, Chin, Dickens, Dromm, Mark-Viverito, Jackson and Barron for supporting Bill 371-A.

Queens Councilman Dan Halloran opposed the measure and talked about why he did so.

“It is time for the left to realize that if you want true choice, it means two sides to an equation,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for and that’s what my colleagues and I will stand up against. And believe me, this will not end here today. I have no delusion that the speaker has lined up sufficient votes to make this happen. But the courts will speak tomorrow, and the courts will say, this is not constitutional. This is an abridgement of our First Amendment rights, and we’re not going to stand for it.”

The letter requesting the hearing provided grounds for one of several arguments pregnancy centers and their attorneys will use to try to get the measure declared unconstitutional.

Attorneys for the ACLJ contend Municipal Home Rule Law § 20 (5), as it applies to New York City, was violated in the rush to approve Bill 0-71A. The law provides that no local law shall be approved by the Mayor unless a public hearing has been held before him and that notice of the public hearing must be made at least five days before the hearing and within ten days of presentation of the introduction. The notice is required to be published in the City Record and in a daily newspaper or newspapers for public information.

“Mr. Mayor, we demand our fair public hearing before you on the merits of this unwarranted Bill, which seeks to cripple free alternative to abortion counseling, ultrasounds, and quick and easy access to pre-natal care, which we provide in four boroughs,” Slattery said at the time.

ACLJ attorneys also contend the New York City Council disrespected the rule of law when it hastily passed the ordinance in violation of section 36 of the New York City Charter. This section states that the Council shall not pass a local law until it shall have been in its final form and upon the desks of the council members at least seven calendar days, exclusive of Sundays, prior to its final passage. The bill did not reach its final form until the Committee on Women’s Issues voted on the amended version on Tuesday, March 1. Therefore, ACLJ says, the introduction, in its final form, reached the council members’ desks less than twenty four hours prior to the vote.

Bloomberg signed the bill just after a new report indicated 41 percent of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion.

The report, which was recently exposed at a press conference by Archbishop Timothy Dolan and an interfaith coalition of religious leaders, showed an abortion rate of 60% for African American women and that 90% of all abortions in New York City were performed on ethnic minorities.

“It is a sad day when the Mayor of the nation’s greatest city turns a blind eye to a fundamental problem of our city’s parents — they have little hope in their future here. His indifference to the pre-born children of New York puts our very future at greater risk,” said Slattery previously.

Should the New York measure go to court, pro-life attorneys will likely cite the precedent established in another state.

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.

The judge granted summary judgment finding the anti-pregnancy center law is viewpoint-based and impossible to render constitutional 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.

This week, a federal judge struck down most of a law Montgomery County, Maryland officials passed that targets pregnancy centers and requires them to post signs that may turn potential clients away.