A Baltimore ordinance requiring a Christian “pregnancy center” to post notices that it doesn’t offer abortion referrals or birth control violates its free speech rights, a federal appeals court in Virginia ruled.
In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Appeals Court in Richmond today upheld a lower court ruling that bars Baltimore from enforcing a 2009 law requiring “limited-service pregnancy centers” to visibly disclose their stance on abortion and birth control.
Among those challenging the ordinance was the Pregnancy Center, which operates two locations in the city promoting abstinence, Bible studies and classes in prenatal development. The Pregnancy Center said it doesn’t provide abortion referrals due to its moral and religious beliefs.
“In compelling that speech, the Pregnancy Center is, in this case, required to participate in the city’s effort to tell pregnant women that abortions are available elsewhere as a morally acceptable alternative, contrary to the moral and religious beliefs of the Pregnancy Center,” according to the majority ruling written by U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer and joined by Judge G. Steven Agee.
U.S. Circuit Judge Robert King, in a dissent, called the majority’s decision “indefensible” and said “these proceedings have thus followed a course more fitting a kangaroo court than a court of the United States.”
King said there was ample evidence that the centers engage in “deceptive practices” that create health risks for the women who seek help from them.
The case is Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns Inc. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 11-1111, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Richmond).
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