Archdiocese of Baltimore Sues City Over CPC Disclosure Law
The Archdiocese of Baltimore filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the city of Baltimore's law mandating truth in advertising by crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) about their services. According to the Baltimore Sun, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien said the ordinance violates the CPCs' First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion, and it "is hurting the good people volunteering and giving so much of their resources to come to the help of pregnant women." The suit named the city, mayor, the City Council and the city's health commissioner and health department as defendants.
The law, which went into effect in January, requires CPCs to post signs disclosing that they do not offer referrals for or information about abortion and contraception. Baltimore is the first city in the US to have a "truth in advertising" law. According to WBAL TV, violators of the ordinance may be fined $150 per day.
Mark Graber, professor of law and government at the University of Maryland School of Law, told the Baltimore Sun, "All government is doing here is asking people to tell the truth...This is simply telling a pregnancy center that you must tell the truth about what you do." He pointed out that advertising does not have the same freedoms as political speech. For the same reason, cigarette manufacturers are obligated to put a warning label about health risks on their products’ packages.
NARAL Pro-Choice America's Executive Director Jennifer Blasdell said that the purpose of the law is to empower women with the fullest extent of information about their options. She added, "This provision does not ask a facility to provide or counsel for any services they find objectionable, but only asks them to tell the truth about the nature of their services."
Currently, there are an estimated 2,593 CPCs nationwide, most of which are affiliated with one or more national umbrella organizations. CPCs pose as legitimate health centers and offer "free" pregnancy tests. Some CPCs coerce and intimidate women out of considering abortion as an option, and prevent women from receiving neutral and comprehensive medical advice. These clinics are typically run by anti-abortion volunteers who are not licensed medical professionals.
Media Resources: The Baltimore Sun 3/30/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 11/18/09, 12/8/09; WBAL TV 3/29/10