Limited Services Pregnancy Center Sues County Over Truth in Advertising Law

Robin Marty

Montgomery County, Maryland, is being sued by a limited service pregnancy center over a a truth in advertising disclosure law.

Montgomery County, Maryland, is being sued by Centro Tepeyac Women’s Center over a law stating that the center, and other “limited services” pregnancy centers that do not provide abortions or abortion referrals, must post a disclaimer at the clinic, according to Gazette.net.

Under the law, pregnancy centers that do not provide abortions or do not provide referrals to abortion clinics are required to post disclaimers stating the center “does not have a licensed medical professional on staff” and the “Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider.”

Supporters of the law, which passed in February, say it helps caution women that information they receive at “limited service pregnancy centers” might not be accurate.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

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During debate on the bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At large) of North Bethesda, supporters said the centers provided misinformation to pregnant women about the consequences of abortion.

Representatives from the centers said that was untrue, and that they provide free counseling services for women.

Centro Tepeyac Women’s Center, which is being represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, claims that the disclaimer forces a set of “special speech rules” that only pro-life speakers have to adhere to, where as pro-choice speech remains “unregulated.”  Lawyers for the Center so far have not addressed how stating that they do not have licensed medical staff on site violates their free speech rights.

In March, anti-choice advocates in Baltimore attempted to make the same arguments in a lawsuit against the city for their new crisis pregnancy center truth in advertising ordinance.    The Archbishop of Baltimore declared the signs “religious harassment,” however, both the city council and local lawyers have been confident that the law is legal and non-discriminatory.

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