A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Federal appeals court declares Baltimore pregnancy clinic law unconstitutional

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] ruled unanimously [opinion, PDF] Friday that a Baltimore law [text] that requires pro-life pregnancy clinics to post signage in their waiting rooms stating that they do not offer or refer women for abortions, is unconstitutional.

The court found the law violates the First Amendment [text], ruling in favor of the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns [advocacy website], which provides prenatal services and counseling for women regarding alternatives to abortions.

The city had argued that the law was meant to address concerns of deceptive advertising and reduce potential health risks from delayed abortions.

Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III opined that the city's law did not satisfy its reasoning, calling it "too loose a fit":

Baltimore's chosen means here are too loose a fit with those ends, and in this case compel a politically and religiously motivated group to convey a message fundamentally at odds with its core beliefs and mission. The ordinance forces the center to utter in its own waiting room words at odds with its foundational beliefs and with the principles of those who have given their working lives to it. What the record does show is affirmative advocacy of abortion alternatives by a lawful non-profit group. None of the public advocacy of alternatives, however, suggests that the center would provide help or assistance in obtaining an abortion. Without proving the inefficacy of less restrictive alternatives, providing concrete evidence of deception, or more precisely targeting its regulation, the city cannot prevail.
The decision upholds the ruling [opinion, PDF] by Judge Marvin Garbis of the US District Court for the District of Maryland [official website] made in October 2016.

According to Baltimore's attorney, the city may appeal to the US Supreme Court as well as submit a brief in the upcoming Supreme Court case [JURIST report], regarding whether California violates First Amendment rights of pro-life private crisis pregnancy centers by requiring signs on how to obtain state-sponsored services, including abortion and contraception. California argues that the Reproductive Facts Acts [text], which in October 2016 was upheld [opinion, PDF] by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website], simply informs women of their options.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.