31 January 2011

Judge rules pregnancy center ordinance unconstitutional

From the Baltimore Sun:
A federal judge has struck down the city ordinance requiring faith-based pregnancy counseling centers to tell clients upfront that they won't help them get an abortion.

Baltimore drew national attention 14 months ago with the legislation, sponsored by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake when she was City Council president, that required the centers to post signs saying that they don't refer clients for abortions or birth control.

In a decision issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis wrote that the requirement violates the centers' constitutional right to free speech. Ruling in a lawsuit brought against the city by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore and a counseling center it supports, he declared the ordinance 'unenforceable.'

"Whether a provider of pregnancy-related services is 'pro-life' or 'pro-choice,' it is for the provider — not the government — to decide when and how to discuss abortion and birth-control method," Garbis wrote. "The Government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, require a 'pro-life' pregnancy-related service center to post a sign."
The text of the decision does not appear to be available on-line yet at the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.
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