Is it free speech to be allowed to mislead? Is it violating a group’s rights to force them to tell what services they don’t provide? And what is the actual definition of “birth control” anyway? The Archdiocese of Baltimore will be asking a judge to answer all of those questions as they sue the city for discrimination regarding a new law stating that crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) must state up front that they don’t provide abortion or birth control services.
The Archbishop and his supporters call the signs, which are the size of a piece of paper and state “CLINIC NAME Does Not Offer or Refer For Abortion or Birth Control” in English and Spanish, a type of religious “harassment.”
The centers feel they’ve been unfairly targeted. On Monday the Archbishop of Baltimore called the signs a form of harassment. ‘It is a clear violation of these centers constitutional rights to free speech, and their free exercise of religion,’ he said.
The center’s director, Carol Clews, said clients already knew they didn’t perform abortions, even without the sign. ‘We make our position abundantly clear. Pregnancy centers don’t do abortions. They offer women assistance,’ she said…‘We are a pro-life, faith-based organization and I have to believe that we were targeted for that very reason,’ Clews said.
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Clews claims most of the women coming in are not looking for abortions, but pregnancy assistance, rendering the signs unnecessary. She does not explain how a sign stating they do not provide abortions then undermines their attempt to help women who she states are not seeking one.
Batlimore’s Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, states that the purpose of the law is not to infringe on anyone’s freedom of speech, but to make sure that statements being made are factual.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake introduced the legislation when she was City Council president after meeting with abortion rights advocates, who complained that some clinics were providing inaccurate information, such as claiming that abortions are connected to breast cancer and other problems.
“This bill is not an abortion debate. This bill is about truth in advertising,” Rawlings-Blake said at the time. “I think, to an extent, the advocates on both sides have kind of overblown this issue.”
Law Professor Mark Graber agrees.
Mark Graber, professor of law and government at the University of Maryland School of Law, said the law appears to favor the city. He said the Supreme Court has made it clear that advertising does not have the same protections as political speech.
“All government is doing here is asking people to tell the truth,” Graber said. “And we do this all the time on the cigarette labels. This is simply telling a pregnancy center that you must tell the truth about what you do.”
But the archdiocese argues that the sign itself is incorrect, especially when it comes to birth control. Depending, of course, on how you define “birth control.”
The archdiocese said its complaint argues that the ordinance that went into effect in January “targets for speech regulation only one side of a contentious public, political debate,” which the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled violates the First Amendment. The archdiocese said the complaint also argues the ordinance also wrongly requires centers to state that they do not provide birth-control services when they provide “education about abstinence and natural family planning.”
Sort of makes you wonder how people could be accusing them of misleading, doesn’t it?
March 29, 2010
Executive order on abortion funding won’t stand, Washington Post columnist says – Catholic News Agency
Special Report: ‘Telemed Abortions’ Endanger Women and Drive Up Insurance Costs – Christian News Wire
Abortion ruling to come today – Chicago Sun-Times
Right-wing media falsely claim health center provision will fund abortion – Media Matters for America
Cook County Judge To Rule On Illinois Parental Notification Law – Huffington Post
Judge tosses abortion lawsuit – Chicago Sun-Times
Law Will Lower the Costs of Being a Woman – New York Times
Adult trial for boy in death of Pa. woman, fetus – The Associated Press
Abortion not funded – The Spokesman Review
Bishop Gettelfinger blasts Ellsworth for health care vote – Evansville Courier & Press
CO Personhood Initiative Will Be on November Ballot – Ms. Magazine
Kathleen Parker: Too many Democrats are hiding behind Hyde – La Crosse Tribune
Abortion Sign Ordinance Prompts Archdiocese Lawsuit – WBAL Baltimore
Illinois judge lifts abortion notification order – The Associated Press
Editorial: Health care law hard-fought victory for the uninsured -Anderson Herald Bulletin
District 219: Board divided on pregnancy notification proposal – Niles Herald Spectator
Illinois Judge Passes Buck on Parental Notification Law – MyFox Illinois
Rape Victims Should Be Offered Abortion Services For Free – Peace fm Online
Rwanda: Health Workers Receive Family Planning Training – AllAfrica.com
Report: Funding contraception can save lives– Toronto Sun
AIDS on the rise in Cuban youth: Officials – Montreal Gazette
Students have lower HIV rate – Times LIVE
March 30, 2010
Interpreting abortion – University of Virginia The Cavalier Daily
Parental Notification Law Won’t Go Into Effect Immediately – Chicago Public Radio
Judge lifts restraining order on Illinois abortion notification law – The State Journal-Register
Group happy about health care law – Bellingham Herald
Archdiocese sues city over pregnancy counseling notice – Baltimore Sun
Mich. House passes emergency contraception bills – MSU State News
Antibiotics As Lifeline For HIV Patients – Oneindia
Health Reform Law Includes $250 Million For Abstinence-Only Programs – Medical News Today
Call to extend HPV vaccine to boys – ABC Online
Nigeria: Unsafe Abortion – New Concerns About an Old Problem – AllAfrica.com
Nigeria: Gynecologist Tasks Stakeholders On Women Rights – AllAfrica.com
Right-wing fears go deeper than health care – Shore News Today
Loophole May Delay Coverage for Some Kids – CBS News