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

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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.

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