.- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has signed a bill that places new demands on crisis pregnancy centers, despite two recent federal rulings that called its constitutionality into question.
Mayor Bloomberg said on March 16 that he was signing “Introduction 0-371A” into law with a “clear conscience,” and that those who objected to the law were free to challenge it in court. At least one organization, Expectant Mother Care, is already working with the American Center for Law and Justice to file suit in federal court on March 20, disputing the law.
“The Mayor himself admitted the law may be unconstitutional,” observed attorney Tiffany Barrans of the American Center for Law and Justice.
She said it was “a shame” that Mayor Bloomberg had “chosen to subject the taxpayers of New York to a lawsuit, rather than postpone the signing to determine if the legislation is actually legal and constitutional.”
The measure requires crisis pregnancy counseling centers to make a series of 10 different disclosures in English and Spanish, in their advertizing, literature and interactions with clients. The centers will be required to indicate whether they provide abortion and contraception or makes referrals for those services, and whether or not there is a licensed medical provider on site.
On March 15, a federal judge struck down portions of a similar ordinance in Montgomery County, Maryland. Judge Deborah Chasanow issued a temporary injunction preventing the county from enforcing rules that required crisis pregnancy centers to post a number of disclosures.
“In several cases spanning almost 70 years, the Supreme Court has found violations of the First Amendment where private individuals are forced to propound government-dictated messages,” Judge Chasanow noted.
Quoting a 1994 case regarding television broadcasting, she wrote that such cases “reflect a concern that, in compelling speech, 'the government seeks not to advance a legitimate regulatory goal, but to suppress unpopular ideas or information, or manipulate the public debate through coercion rather than persuasion.'”
On Jan. 28, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Garbis threw out a similar Baltimore city ordinance that required what he described as “compelled speech” on the part of pregnancy centers.
“Whether a provider of pregnancy-related services is 'pro-life' or 'pro-choice,' it is for the provider—not the government—to decide when and how to discuss abortion and birth-control methods,” he wrote. “The Government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, require a 'pro-life' pregnancy-related service center to post a sign.”
New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, who spoke out against New York City's new law as it neared passage in the City Council, told CNA in a March 12 interview that the City Council's actions revealed the true attitude of many abortion advocates who say they want the procedure to be “safe, legal, and rare.”
“Our city council began to intrude into the beautiful services provided by our crisis pregnancy centers,” Archbishop Dolan pointed out.
“If they were really sincere in saying, 'We want to make abortion rare,' they would have said: 'We'll leave those alone,'” he reasoned. “But they won't.”
Dr. Alveda King, a pro-life advocate who is the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said that abortion providers would not appreciate being forced to make disclosures similar to those being asked of crisis pregnancy centers.
“We help women, and we help babies,” she told CNA. “Why don't the abortion clinics put up signs, saying 'We kill babies, we often hurt mothers, and our clinics are unregulated and often not up to good standards'? Why don't they put up those signs?”