A little over a year ago, Baltimore was the subject of national controversy when it passed legislation requiring faith-based pregnancy crisis centers to post up signs stating they would not help clients obtain an abortion. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who was then the City Council president, backed the legislation. But a federal judge now ruled the ordinance unenforceable, and unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled that the ordinance requiring pregnancy crisis centers to tell their clients they are not going to help women get abortions was in violation of the First Amendment, in which the right to free speech is protected. The judge said in a written statement:
"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 method. The Government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, require a 'pro-life' pregnancy-related service center to post a sign."
Pro-life activists were happy about the ruling and looked forward to finally continuing their work of faith-based unplanned pregnancy counseling without what they referred to as government interference. Lawyers said they were not surprised by the ruling. Personally, I am on the fence about Baltimore's earlier decision to require crisis pregnancy centers to be upfront about their stance on abortion. Does that really interfere with free speech? I hardly think so. If anything, women who have come to seek an abortion should know where the center they approach for help stands.
What about the rights of women to know what kind of an organization they are dealing with? It is hard for me to understand how such a sign could possibly interfere with the First Amendment. Presumably the signs did not interfere with the faith-based centers' message, and just informed clients of what to expect. The right to free speech is an important one, to be sure, but public organizations should surely be honest about their intentions? What do you think? Want to read more about abortions? Our earlier posts on the topic include Couple aborted twin boys because they wanted a girl? and MTV's "16 & pregnant" causes abortion controversy.