Law on Pregnancy Centers Blocked
July 13th, 2011
A federal judge yesterday threw out a city law regulating so-called pregnancy crisis centers, only hours before the measure was set to take effect. The law, passed by City Council in March and signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would require these centers to disclose that they do not provide abortions. They also would have had to post signs indicating whether they have medical professionals on staff.
The centers clearly have an anti-abortion agenda and try to encourage women to bear the child — either to keep or put up for adoption. Their attempts to conceal that, New York Civil Liberties executive director Donna Lieberman has said, misleads women and so can “pose serious health risks”
From the beginning, though, people affiliated with the center said the bill infringed on the centers’ rights to free speech.
Yesterday, Judge William H. Pauley III agreed, calling the law “offensive to free speech principles” and saying it was based on an “overly broad definition of commercial speech.”
He did, though, express concerns about the centers’ possibly misleading women as to the services they provide and said their use of unlicensed ultrasound technicians “can spawn significant harms to pregnant, at-risk women who believe they are receiving care.Ē ” To address this, Pauley urged the city to launch a public service ad campaign or work to set requirements for ultrasound technicians.
Despite criticism from the judge, Chris Slattery, president of EMC Frontline Pregnancy Centers, which brought the suit, said in a press release that he was “thrilled” by Pauley’s ruling.
“This law, which forces crisis pregnancy centers to adopt and express views about abortion and contraception that they strongly disagree with, is constitutionally flawed,” said CeCe Heil of the American Center for Law and Justice, which helped argue the case. “The court clearly understood that this law punishes pro-life advocates. We’re confident that this law will never see the light of day
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a supporter of the measure, and its sponsor, Councilmember Jessica Lappin both issued statements criticizing the judge’s ruling.
Sayings she would continue to fight for the law, Quinn said, “Today’s decision means that pregnancy service centers can continue deceiving women who seek their services. Equally troubling is that the centers will not be required to keep confidential the information collected from women who visit them. In issuing this injunction, the court has failed to protect pregnant women in an extremely vulnerable time in their lives. ”
She called Pauley’s alternative suggestions “completely unworkable.:By Gail Robinson on July 13, 2011, 10:15 pm
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