(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights and the City of
Baltimore will be immediately appealing a court decision issued today involving
a legal challenge to a new city ordinance that demands truth in advertising
from crisis pregnancy centers in Baltimore. Although the district court held
that the Archbishop of Baltimore and St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Congregation
did not have standing to challenge the ordinance, it also ruled that the
ordinance violates the First Amendment rights of the Greater Baltimore Center
for Pregnancy Concerns. The ordinance, the first of its kind in the country,
requires crisis pregnancy centers to post signs in their waiting rooms
indicating that they do not provide or make referrals for abortion or
comprehensive birth control services. The City of Baltimore and the
Center will appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
plan to immediately appeal today’s court’s decision and we are confident we
will prevail,” said Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney at the Center
for Reproductive Rights. “Baltimore’s ordinance is a common sense measure
designed to protect consumers from a long-standing and documented pattern of
deceptive practices by crisis pregnancy centers.”
March 2010, the Archbishop of Baltimore, one of its parishes and the Greater
Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. filed suit against the ordinance,
charging that it violates crisis pregnancy centers’ rights to freedom of speech
and religion. The Center, a longtime advocate for reproductive health and
rights, joined the City of Baltimore to defend the ordinance in June. The
ordinance protects women from deceptive advertising and ensures that women
seeking contraception or abortion are able to get those services promptly.
Crisis pregnancy centers, non-medical organizations that counsel women against
using abortion and birth control services, often advertise themselves as
clinics that provide abortion or family planning in order to lure women to
passed the ordinance following two reports that documented a pattern of
deceptive practices by limited-service pregnancy centers. In 2006, U.S.
Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a study finding that crisis pregnancy centers often use delay
tactics to stall women from getting abortion or birth control services while
subjecting them to anti-abortion and anti-contraception propaganda. In
addition, they often mislead women, providing false factual information about
contraception and the mechanics of an abortion procedure as well as its
risks. Those findings were then confirmed in the 2008 report which specifically looked at the practices of such
facilities in Maryland.
City Council also heard testimony from numerous women complaining about
deceptive practices used by the centers.
v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore was
filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore.