By Dave Andrusko
Alas, I just learned that last Friday U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasenow struck down a blatant abridgement of free speech rights, a case NRL News Today has discussed numerous times in the past. I will read Judge Chasenow’s 54-page opinion tonight and comment more in depth on Tuesday.
In a nutshell on February 1, 2010, the Montgomery [Maryland] County Council passed Resolution No. 16-1252 which, among other things, required public signage (in English and Spanish) in the waiting rooms of certain pregnancy resource centers [described as “limited-service pregnancy centers “] that stated, “the Center does not have a licensed medical professional on staff” and “the Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider.”
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman was co-counsel in Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County. “Pregnancy centers, which offer real help and hope to women, shouldn’t be punished by political allies of abortion sellers,” he said. Judge Chasenow “rightly found no justification whatsoever for the government to force pro-life centers to speak a message designed to drive women away. The government cannot resort to coercing or shutting down someone else’s speech in violation of the First Amendment in order to achieve its political goals.”
The new permanent injunction blocks the entirety of the law. It came after appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ultimately resulted in affirming Judge Chasenow original 2011 preliminary injunction, which blocked the law in part.
Judge Chasenow observed “The record produced by Defendants is simply insufficient to sustain this regulation of Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights. Assuming arguendo [for the sake of argument] that the County has a compelling interest in positive health outcomes for pregnant women, the critical flaw for the County is the lack of any evidence that the practices of [pregnancy resource centers] are causing pregnant women to be misinformed which is negatively affecting their health.”
Click here to read the February/March issue of National Right to Life News,
the “pro-life newspaper of record.”
She added that the only people who alleged a “misinformation problem” on the part of pregnancy care centers “were universally volunteers from a pro-choice organization sent to investigate [their] practices.” Despite those allegations, “there is no evidence that those women failed to get the medical services and counseling they desired or that the time spent at the [centers] was to the detriment of their health,” she concluded
As NRL News Today has written previously, there is a coordinated campaign led by NARAL Pro-Choice America against women-helping centers. We have written about lawsuits pending on the same issue in Baltimore, New York City, San Francisco, and Austin.