Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit Thursday to protect a life-affirming, faith-based pregnancy care center, which helps clients with concerns about pregnancy and motherhood, against government censorship and coercion resulting from a Hartford law.
The city of Hartford enacted an ordinance that forces Caring Families and its affiliated Mobile Care ministry to make compelled statements using signs inside and outside the facility, on its website, and in telephone conversations with clients. According to the complaint, these compelled statements incorrectly imply that the nonprofit is unqualified to provide the range of free services it offers to clients. The ordinance is similar to portions of a California law that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down last year in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra.
“No woman should feel alone, hopeless, or without options during an unexpected pregnancy,” said ADF Legal Counsel Denise Harle. “Hartford has no business implying—by force of law—that Caring Families and other pro-life care providers are anything but competent and tolerant. Worse still, Hartford claims it’s promoting comprehensive information about health care but only censors and interferes with specific views about life, pregnancy, motherhood—a double standard that’s both troubling and unconstitutional.”
The city of Hartford compels pregnancy centers to post signs and verbally share messages announcing “This facility does not have a licensed medical provider on site to provide or supervise all services.” But, as the ADF complaint notes, Caring Families offers a wide range of services that do not require supervision by a licensed medical provider.
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The lawsuit further states that Hartford has “crafted a speaker-based, viewpoint-based law, targeting the speech only of speakers espousing certain pro-life moral, religious, and philosophical beliefs.” Although seeking to provide “consumer protection,” the city has exempted abortion clinics and community health centers from the ordinance, even in situations when they do not have “a licensed medical provider present at all times directly providing or directly supervising all medical services.”
“The city has no business steering women away from life-affirming help,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot, vice president of the ADF Center for Life. “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled just last year that pro-life pregnancy centers should be free to serve women without unjust government punishment. Hartford’s law only makes it harder for women to seek out all of their options and obtain support. That’s why we’re filing a lawsuit to protect pregnancy centers from hostile regulation that singles them out.”
ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Caring Families v. City of Hartford, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Patricia Stewart, one of more than 3,300 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case for the church.