Appeals Court In Va. Hears Md. Free Speech Claims Over Signs At Pregnancy Centers

BALTIMORE (WJZ)— A federal appeals court is hearing arguments in the controversy over local pregnancy centers. It’s a case involving abortions, birth control and the Catholic Church.

Weijia Jiang explains both sides of this argument over women’s health.

A sign outside a pregnancy center set off a national debate to answer a controversial question: should faith-based pregnancy centers be required to post signs that say they do not offer abortions or birth control services?

In 2009 Baltimore became the first city in the country to say yes.

But a judge quickly struck down the ordinance, calling it unconstitutional.

“The fact that a city agency government was supposed to tell you what they don’t provide makes no sense at all,” said Sean Caine, Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The city is trying to overturn the ruling.

On Friday morning, its lawyers and those for the archdiocese presented cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The church was confident it will prevail again.

But other pregnancy centers that are non-faith based, like Planned Parenthood, are siding with the city and say without signs, women are misled or even dissuaded to pursue their options.

A spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland says the city just required them to be honest and up front about what services a woman could expect when walking through their doors.

“I don’t feel like that’s the case,” said Jillian Banks, of Baltimore.

WJZ met Jillian Banks outside Saint Brigid Roman Catholic Church in Canton, which houses a pregnancy clinic.

Banks says posting signs out front would be inappropriate.

“I’ve been there 101 times because I know the lady who runs it. They offer different alternatives. They don’t try to pressure you not to get an abortion,” Banks said.

As the argument continues, a three-judge panel will make the final call.

There is no deadline for the court to make a ruling. It could be several months before the judges issue one.

  • RustysChaos

    Maryland, what a great place for bad laws.

  • Ed W

    I think women are smart enough to ask if a place offers the services they want.

  • just sayibn'

    Should cancer treatment centers have to post signs saying that they don’t offer suicide asistance? I think it’s okay that they try to help people LIVE with a situation. If someone wants to pursue termination, they will seek out such a facility.

  • Eilsel Kelam

    Ms Jiang, please use words to mean what they really are. Planned Parenthood has never ever called itself a “pregnancy help center,” a term you apply to Planned Parenthood in your article. Planned Parenthood has never been a pregnancy help center, not from Day One when Margaret Sanger founded the organization to promote “cleansing of the race” through abortion and contraception and not today when Planned Parenthood’s Number One activity is abortion. Planned Parenthood performs tens of thousands of abortions in the USA every year, far more than any other service they offer. Women get little to no “pregnancy help” through Planned Parenthood.

  • Renae

    Crisis pregnancy centers deliberately advertise as if they offer comprehensive pregnancy help and as places that will counsel women on their options for dealing with their unplanned pregnancy. The truth is most leave out legitimate, legal options for dealing with or preventing unplanned pregnancy – abortion and birth control. This is a truth-in-advertising law designed so that consumers can make an educated decision about the services they seek in their time of crisis.

  • Sarah

    I have personally been deceived by a crisis pregnancy center. My teenage daughter was sexually assaulted and it resulted in a pregnancy. She came to me terrified asking me to help her find abortion information. When I called they lead me to believe they were an abortion clinic. It wasn’t until an hour into the appointment they told us they did not provide abortion care. This was after they separated us, showed her an ultrasound she did not want to see, and told her she would DIE from having an abortion. She felt violated afterwards! My question is why would a “faith” based organization want the ability to lie to women in the first place? If this law protects other women from experiencing what my daughter did I’m all for it!

  • Lindsay

    This would not be an issue if faith based pregnancy centers didn’t have a history of misleading women. The law is not an attack on faith or freedom of speech, it was designed to protect women from misinformation.

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