Statement From the Center For Reproductive Rights Regarding Fourth Circuit Court Hearing on Baltimore's Regulation of Deceptive Crisis Pregnancy Centers

(PRESS RELEASE) Today the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral argument in the case concerning Baltimore’s truth-in-advertising ordinance—the first of its kind in the nation—which requires crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post signs in their waiting rooms indicating that they do not provide or make referrals for abortion or comprehensive birth control services.

By granting a new hearing in the case, the full appeals court voided a June 2012 decision from a divided panel of judges striking down the ordinance—a decision one judge described as “indefensible” in his dissent.

 “The necessity of this consumer protection ordinance was demonstrated by serious and compelling public testimony and evidence of deception by CPCs in their offers of services. For example, CPCs in Baltimore advertise that they offer, ‘abortion and morning after pills’ when they do not provide or refer for those services,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

“Women and girls seeking pregnancy and contraception services should be allowed to make informed choices about where to go.  Having accurate information about what services a center offers is key.”

“We appreciate that the en banc court was willing to consider this case and are hopeful that Baltimore’s consumer protection measure will be upheld,” stated Suzanne Sangree, the Chief Solicitor for Baltimore City who argued the case.  “And the City of Baltimore Department of Law greatly appreciates the pro bono legal assistance of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  Their legal work on this case was of the highest quality.”

Said Stephanie Toti, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, and co-counsel on the case:

"Today's hearing showed that the judges deciding this case will carefully consider how so-called crisis pregnancy centers aim to deceive women and ultimately delay their access to time-sensitive reproductive health care services through deceptive advertising and other deceptive business practices. We are hopeful that the full appeals court will uphold the Baltimore ordinance, which simply ensures that centers are truthful and clear about what services they offer.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the only global legal advocacy organization dedicated exclusively to advancing and defending reproductive rights, recently launched the national Draw the Line campaign, which calls on all Americans to sign a Bill of Reproductive Rights and tell lawmakers that they stand strongly behind a woman’s fundamental right to safe reproductive health care. To date, nearly 200,000 people from every state in the United States, including Maryland, have signed the bill at drawtheline.org.