A crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in Silver Spring, Maryland, filed a lawsuit last week in US District Court against Montgomery County, Maryland, over the county's disclosure law. The law requires CPCs without licensed medical professionals on staff to post a disclaimer that states they do "not have a licensed medical professional on staff" and that the "Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider," according to the Business Gazette. The suit claims that the required disclaimer violates free speech rights. CPCs that fail to post the sign face a fine.
Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, told the Business Gazette, "The regulation does not require a facility to provide or counsel for any services to which they are opposed, but only asks them to let women know if there is no licensed medical staff and that the Montgomery County Health Officer advises women who are or may be pregnant to seek care from a medical professional."
The Archdiocese of Baltimore filed a similar federal lawsuit in March against the city's disclosure law. This suit claimed the city's ordinance violates the CPCs' First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion and named the city, mayor, the City Council and the city's health commissioner and health department as defendants. Baltimore, Maryland, and Austin, Texas, are the only cities in the US with similar "truth in advertising" laws.
Currently, there are an estimated 2,600 CPCs nationwide, most of which are affiliated with one or more national umbrella organizations. CPCs pose as legitimate health centers and offer "free" pregnancy tests. Some CPCs coerce and intimidate women out of considering abortion as an option, and prevent women from receiving neutral and comprehensive medical advice. These clinics are typically run by anti-abortion volunteers who are not licensed medical professionals.
Media Resources: Business Gazette 5/26/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 3/31/10