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.

Ventriloquists at Work: Hartford Goes After Pro-life Pregnancy Help Center

This is a ventriloquist’s dummy. You can make it say anything you want.

Wikimedia Commons photo of Charlie McCarthy doll with case
“Charlie McCarthy.” Wikimedia Commons photo  

This is a pregnancy help center. The Hartford, Connecticut City Council is trying to treat it like a dummy.

St. Gerard's Center for Life, Hartford CT
St. Gerard’s Center for Life/Hartford Women’s Center, Hartford, Connecticut. (Facebook photo)

A newly-passed Hartford ordinance would require the Hartford Women’s Center, operated by St. Gerard’s Center for Life, to post certain language to address the fears of abortion advocates who think deception is at the core of what the HWC does.

The Hartford Councilors are not the only ventriloquist wannabes out there, just the latest.

A California law seeks to force pro-life pregnancy help centers to promote state-funded abortions via signage inside the centers. That one’s been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra.

The Hartford ordinance passed 7-2 on December 11, a few weeks after a packed-house public hearing. The seven city councilors who voted “yes” had an eye on California case, though. Peter Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut notes,

…in a last-minute change, the Hartford City Council altered the ordinance so that it goes into effect next July, instead of the original language which had it going into effect 30 days from its passage.

Why next July? Because the Supreme Court’s term – presumably including a decision on the California law – wraps up at the end of June.

Read my post at DaTechGuy blog about the Hartford and California cases and the Family Institute of Connecticut’s statement on the recent Hartford City Council vote

40 Days for Life Spring 2017 Comes to an End

The Equality Center is dark and unoccupied in the late evening, with only a few signs standing sentinel outside: Civility, Compassion, Love. Stop Sidewalk Bullying. Legal Abortion IS Pro-life.  There’s no competition for parking spaces. Traffic is minimal – a startling thing, for someone who knows the city only from the hours when the legislature is in session a few blocks up the road.

In that tranquil midnight setting, with no fanfare and no confrontation, the city’s Spring 2017 40 Days for Life campaign drew to a close.

Final vigil hour, 40DFL Spring 2017, Concord NH

Students, Knights of Columbus, an Anglican priest, and a few of us with no particular affiliation were among the people joining campaign leader Beth Gaby for an hour of quiet prayer for everyone who goes in and out of the abortion facility, whether clients, workers, or contractors.

Beth brought 40DFL back to a city that had gone without a campaign for awhile. She had some challenges. One local Equality Center abortion supporter took to Facebook regarding 40DFL: “Victory is….intimidating clinic protestors [sic] to the point they get in their car and leave.”

Beth must have known from the vigil schedule which 40DFL participants were the targets of the angry woman. Beth’s response was to join those participants during their next scheduled hour.  One of those participants later brought two more people with her to pray. The moral support was contagious.

Greenland

A few hours before the Concord vigil, the Greenland, New Hampshire 40DFL team gathered for a closing rally, followed by prayer in front of the Lovering Center. The 40DFL volunteers took advantage of a splendid 70-degree spring day. Campaign leader Jackie McCoy sent an email afterward to supporters, including those who had been unable to attend.

“Thank you to all of you who have prayed, fasted and witnessed to life, from your homes and on the sidewalk. I got to speak with some of you at today’s closing rally, and I am always so impressed, and blessed by your steadfast support of 40 Days for Life, and the compassion you have for the unborn, their mothers, and also for those who oppose you.”

Jackie mentioned encouraging things from the campaign, including friendliness from a Center worker and increased news coverage in local media.

I’ve been a guest speaker at Greenland 40DFL in the past, and I am always touched by the warmth of the local team. Every rally wraps up with a “tailgate party” of sorts, with coffee and snacks, followed by a delivery of treats to the New Generation home across the street.

Until Next Time

The next 40 Days for Life campaign will begin September 27. There’s plenty of time to discern whether it’s your turn to step up to lead a campaign in Manchester, Concord, or Greenland.

In the meantime,  Cathy from the Pray for Life Center in Manchester invites pro-life witnesses to prayer vigils outside Planned Parenthood’s Manchester office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is not a 40 Days for Life campaign, but rather a year-round effort. See the Pray for Life Center’s Facebook page for more information.

See also this list of agencies providing direct, no-cost services to pregnant and parenting women in need of resources. Your support and your presence keep them going.



Envisioning mobile ultrasound: “Stork Bus” visits Manchester

The Pennacook Pregnancy Center in Manchester recently hosted a representative from Save the Storks, who brought along a “Stork Bus” to demonstrate the organization’s mobile ultrasound units. Save the Storks has facilitated the purchase of 22 mobile units by pregnancy centers around the country and expects have another 18 in action soon.

DSCF1028Representatives of Manchester-area human services agencies were among the visitors who came for a look at the bus, which is a 24-foot vehicle designed as a mobile pregnancy center. “It’s not a converted RV,” said Michael, the Save the Storks representative. “Everything is for the comfort of the mother.”

Michael on Stork Bus
Michael of Save the Storks explains the bus’s features to visitors.

A pregnancy center operating a Stork Bus can park it near an abortion facility, providing a highly visible opportunity for women to obtain no-cost sonograms. Staffing – one counselor and one sonographer – is the responsibility of the local pregnancy center.

No Stork Bus purchase is in the offing for the Pennacook Pregnancy Center, but the Save the Storks visit gave people a chance to see what a mobile unit might look like.

The interior of the bus on display was remarkable: an ultrasound unit with a large display screen for the sonogram, exam table, private bathroom, private counseling area, audiovisual equipment, even a small refrigerator. The exterior was “wrapped” with a Save the Storks promotional message; each center operating a bus chooses its own exterior design.

The investment for a Stork Bus is substantial. Michael of Save the Storks told me that his group can help local pregnancy care centers find grants, but it’s clear that a center wanting a bus would have to do a lot of fundraising on its own. It’s possible for several agencies to cooperate in the purchase and operation of a bus.

“Four out of five women receiving ultrasounds in these buses choose life for their babies. It used to be three out of five,” said Michael. “Prayer is what we need the most. God does the rest.”


Learn more about Save the Storks.

Learn more about Pennacook Pregnancy Center.

She Said It: Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai (photo: Antonio Cruz/Agencia Brasil)
Wangari Maathai (photo: Antonio Cruz/Agencia Brasil)

“There is no reason why anybody who has been conceived, shouldn’t be given the opportunity to be born and to live a happy life. The fact that a life like that is terminated, is wrong. When we allow abortion, we are punishing the women…. and we are punishing the children whose life is terminated…. I want us to step back a little bit and say: Why is this woman and this child threatened? Why is this woman threatening to terminate this life? What do we need to do as a society? What are we not doing right now as a society?”

~~~ Wangari Maathai, Winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, as quoted in feministsforlife.org