In Which the Ventriloquists Feel Some Pushback

Update to a December post: In “Ventriloquists at Work”, I described cases in Connecticut and California in which government agencies are trying to tell pro-life pregnancy care centers what kind of signage they must post. The U.S. Supreme Court will take a look at the California case later this year.

Just yesterday, January 5, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to uphold a similar law targeting a pro-life clinic in Baltimore, Maryland. That’s good news for all of us First Amendment fans.

From a press release from the Becket Fund, whose attorneys are representing the clinic in Baltimore:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A non-profit pregnancy center that helps low-income women in Baltimore prevailed over a discriminatory city ordinance today. In Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit protected the Center from being forced to violate its conscience by referring for abortions or posting government messages about abortion on its walls.

…In 2009, the City of Baltimore targeted the Center, which operates out of Catholic Church-owned property, demanding they display a sign stating that they “do not provide or make referrals for abortion or birth control services,” even though they already inform women in welcome papers and a lobby sign about the caring services they do provide for free and also that they do not offer abortions. Yet the City of Baltimore did not require abortion clinics to display the services they do not offer, such as adoption or prenatal care. The Fourth Circuit’s decision today criticized Baltimore for adopting “retributive speech restrictions” on pro-life speakers, calling the restrictions a “grave violation” of “our nation’s dearest principles.”

 Read the full statement from the Becket Fund. 

Note the date of the city ordinance: eight years ago. Eight years of litigation would force most nonprofit pregnancy care centers out of business. Maybe that’s one of the factors motivating ordinance supporters. Thumbs up to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and other public-interest law firms who take on such cases.

Author: Ellen Kolb

New Hampshire-based writer, pro-life activist, hiker.