(PRESS RELEASE) Recognizing the substantial evidence amassed by the Baltimore City Council that crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) often engage in deceptive business practices to dissuade women from obtaining contraception and abortion services, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has held that a lower court’s decision blocking the city’s truth-in-advertising ordinance for CPCs was inappropriate.
Today’s decision from the full appellate court remands the case – which challenges a requirement that CPCs post signs in their waiting rooms indicating that they do not provide or make referrals for abortion or comprehensive birth control services – back to Senior U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis for further legal proceedings and discovery.
Said Stephane Toti, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights and co-counsel to the Baltimore City Law Department:
“At a time when women’s health and rights have been under assault in states across the nation, Baltimore’s City Council took affirmative action to stop the unscrupulous practices of those who would stop at nothing to prevent women from obtaining vital reproductive health care.
We welcome the opportunity to further expose the deceptive business practices of these crisis pregnancy centers and will continue to work alongside the City of Baltimore to ensure women seeking contraception and abortion have timely access to those services so they can make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families.”
CPCs frequently advertise themselves as clinics that provide a full range of reproductive health services, but in practice are non-medical organizations that dissuade women from obtaining abortion and birth control services. In addition to deceptive advertising, some centers provide factually inaccurate information and disregard patient confidentiality.
The Center for Reproductive Rights joined the City of Baltimore to defend the ordinance in June 2010 against a lawsuit filed by the Archbishop of Baltimore, a local parish, and the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns seeking to block enforcement of the ordinance.
In January 2011, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the CPC and its allies before the city was even able to submit evidence in support of its case, and the City and the Center immediately appealed the ruling to the 4th Circuit. A divided appellate panel later upheld the lower court’s decision to block the ordinance in June 2012, and just a few months later, the full circuit court agreed to rehear the case.
Baltimore was the first city in the nation to pass legislation requiring these centers to disclose that they neither refer nor offer abortion services. Other local governments in Austin, TX, New York City, Montgomery County, MD, and San Francisco have since enacted similar measures to curb the deceptive practices of these centers.