Baltimore's Mandatory Pregnancy Center Signs Are Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules
BALTIMORE, MD., February 3 (CNA) - A federal judge in Maryland has struck down a law which required pro-life pregnancy centers to post announcements that they do not refer clients for abortions or birth control. The Archbishop of Baltimore declared the ruling "a clear victory."
Under the regulation, if inspectors found no visible announcement in English and Spanish at a center then it would have 10 days to post a notice or face a $150 fine. The pregnancy centers of Baltimore receive significant support from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which also backed the suit to overturn the law.
U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled on Jan. 28 that the law is "unenforceable." He said it is for the provider, and not the government, to "decide when and how to discuss abortion and birth-control method."
"The Government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, require a 'pro-life' pregnancy-related service center to post a sign."
He explained that the Constitution bars "compelled speech," including mandates for introducing the subjects of abortion and birth-control.
The judge said it was "revealing" that the defendants claimed the ordinance mitigated the "harm" caused by the "propaganda" of pregnancy centers concerning abortion and contraception.
"Such descriptions can only support the conclusion that defendants enacted the ordinance out of disagreement with plaintiffs' viewpoint on abortion and birth-control."