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Federal court victories for Maryland crisis pregnancy centers

Catholic World News - July 06, 2012

A federal appeals court has ruled that Baltimore’s mayor and city council infringed upon constitutional free speech rights in compelling crisis pregnancy centers to post signs stating that they “do not provide or make referral for abortion or birth control services.”

The 2-1 appellate court ruling affirmed a lower court’s decision that the ordinance constituted “a form of compelled speech that alters the course of a [pregnancy] center’s communication with a client or prospective client about abortion and birth-control and is based, at least in part, on disagreement with the viewpoint of the speaker.”

“I applaud the court for recognizing that these centers were being targeted for their pro-life views and for sending a strong message to the rest of the nation that these kinds of onerous, discriminatory laws have no place in a nation founded on freedom,” said Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. The archdiocese had filed suit against the mayor and the city council on behalf of a crisis pregnancy center located on archdiocesan property.

In a related decision, the appellate court ruled that Montgomery County violated a crisis pregnancy center’s free speech rights in compelling it to post signs stating that “"the Center does not have a licensed medical professional on staff” and that “the Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider.” In its 2-1 decision, the court ruled that the ordinance constituted “impermissible government control of speech.”

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