New York City’s requirement that pro-life pregnancy centers promote abortion, in violation of their faith, has been defeated in a settlement.
It provides that pregnancy care centers in New York City can “serve women without being forced to speak or post messages that are contrary to their pro-life beliefs or that direct women away from the services the centers offer,” ADF said.
The dispute has arisen in other jurisdictions, including in Maryland and California.
The issue is that government officials are ordering pro-life centers – which offer counseling, pregnancy testing kits, housing, baby supplies and other services – to post notices in prominent places declaring they don’t offer abortions. Sometimes they’re require to give referrals for abortions.
ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman said New York City’s pro-life pregnancy care centers “should be able to offer free help and hope to the women and children that they serve without unconstitutional interference from the government, and this settlement allows that to happen.”
“The centers will be able to operate without being forced to post or express any messages that conflict with their pro-life beliefs or that encourage women to go elsewhere. The centers have also preserved their right to defend themselves in court again if the city discriminates against them,” he said.
ADF said the settlement, approved this week by Judge William H. Pauley III, resolves the last issues in the fight over the notices, which included a lawsuit filed several years ago. Most of the law’s requirements were thrown out during the court proceedings, with only a few “vague” requirements left intact regarding notification that the provider is a licensed medical facility.
“The settlement protects the centers’ constitutionally protected freedoms that were in jeopardy because of Local Law 17, an anti-pregnancy care law that the courts mostly invalidated through the ADF lawsuit Pregnancy Care Center of New York v. City of New York,” ADF said. “An appeals court affirmed most of a district court’s ruling that had struck down the law but reinstated one vague provision in November 2014. The settlement resolves the remaining concerns of the centers.”
When Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York City, he signed Bill 371-A into law in March 2011. But four months later, a federal court prohibited its enforcement because it violated the rights of pro-life centers “if they didn’t provide printed and oral notices crafted by the city that emphasize abortion and encourage women to go elsewhere.”
WND reported two years ago officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, decided not to appeal an adverse court ruling that halted their plan to silence pregnancy centers.
The push for the mandatory signs came from county officials who adopted the demands of pro-abortion interests such as the National Abortion Rights Action League.
But as U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasenow found, there was no evidence that such signs were needed.
“Even assuming … that [pro-life] centers are presenting themselves as medical providers and thus pregnant women are accepting their misinformation as sound medical advice, the county must still demonstrate the next supposition on the logical chain: that these practices are having the effect of harming the health of pregnant women,” the judge wrote in barring the county from imposing its signage requirement.
Last year, California officials decided to go down the path that has failed in both New York and Maryland, with Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill that orders faith-based organizations to refer women to abortionists.
His move is being challenged in several court cases already, because it forces religious pregnancy clinics to tell women and girls that California has public programs to provide immediate, free or low-cost abortions.
“Forcing a religious pro-life charity to proclaim a pro-abortion declaration is on its face an egregious violation of both the free speech and free exercises clauses of the First Amendment,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute.
While the New York case was going on, constitutional attorney Herbert W. Titus of William J. Olson, P.C. told WND that according to the First Amendment, you “can’t be forced to carry someone else’s message.”
Titus, who has taught constitutional law, common law and other subjects for decades at several universities, said it’s “not the government’s business to force anybody to carry the message of anyone else.”
“That is certainly what’s being done here.”
Similar disputes also have arisen in San Francisco, Austin and Baltimore.