The Montgomery County Council in Maryland on Tuesday voted to require pregnancy counseling centers to post a disclaimer saying they do not have medical professionals on staff. Pro-life advocates said the centers are being unfairly targeted because they do not provide abortion or contraception.
The county council approved the new regulation by a 7-2 vote. The rule also requires centers to post notices encouraging women to consult a licensed health care provider.
Backers of the proposal said it was intended to address “misleading information from opponents of abortion rights,” the Washington Post reports.
The Archdiocese of Washington, which supports four pregnancy centers in the county, charged that the proposal “unfairly targets” pregnancy resource centers, saying they provide a “valuable safety net” of material support and referrals, but not medical care, for pregnant women in need.
“This regulation is unnecessary,” archdiocese’s director of life issues, Christa Lopiccolo. “The fact is local pregnancy resource centers provide indispensable and compassionate practical support for women. They are an important resource.”
The centers provide “critical support” for pregnant women and their children at a vulnerable time, she added.
Lopiccolo reported that no complaints have been filed with the county against the centers and no documentation has proven the need for new regulation.
“Rather, this is part of a national effort to undermine the centers’ good work solely because of their beliefs,” she charged.
The regulation is similar to a bill defeated in committee in the Maryland General Assembly in 2008. Similar regulations have been proposed in Virginia and Washington state.
According to the archdiocese, the regulation in practice applies only to centers with a pro-life mission. These centers already encourage women to receive prenatal care.
In a January statement the Catholic bishops of Maryland said the regulations are “particularly abhorrent” because they mandate speech only for pro-life centers “in complete disregard of the respected and valuable assistance pregnant women receive from them.”
“The message these proposals send is disturbing: Failure to provide abortion or contraception, even when based on deeply-held moral beliefs, is an activity that merits regulation and, if necessary, punishment.”