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
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .