Women facing crisis pregnancies deserve competent care and compassionate assistance. Maryland’s Catholic bishops called for an outpouring of support for pregnant women in need and rejected recent proposals to single out pro-life charities that provide them with assistance in a joint statement released January 2010. Set Out in Haste: Serving Women, Serving Life is signed by Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, and Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly.
Set Out in Haste: Serving Women, Serving Life
A First Amendment victory: Court rules in favor of Md. pregnancy centers
June 27, 2012
In a ruling hailed by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori as “a major victory for the First Amendment,” a federal appeals court in Richmond said two Maryland pregnancy centers cannot be compelled to post notices that they do not have licensed medical professionals on staff. Read more here.
Montgomery County Pregnancy Center Regulation
The Montgomery County Council voted 7-2 on February 2, 2010 to pass an amended regulation that required centers providing pregnancy-related services to post a sign stating if there is no medical professional on staff and that women who may be pregnant should consult a medical provider.
The Archdiocese of Washington and the Maryland Catholic Conference opposed the amendment and the final regulation (read the Archdiocese's legal brief). While it made a bad bill less onerous, it still applied de facto only to pro-life pregnancy centers, which are already overwhelmingly successful at getting pregnant women into prenatal care. It also set a dangerous precedent of regulation of pro-life organizations.
In 2010, Centro Tepeyac Women's Center in Silver Spring sued Montgomery County on the grounds that the law restricted freedom of speech.
** On March 15, 2011, a US District Court judge issued a partial victory, ruling that the county cannot require pregnancy centers to post signs implying that pregnant women should seek care elsewhere. However, until a trial is held, the county may still require signsthat licensed medical professionals are not on staff.
The original version of the regulation as introduced would have required pro-life pregnancy resource centers to tell new clients that the information they provide is not intended to be medical advice and to turn to other providers before “proceeding on a course of action regarding [her] pregnancy.” It would have imposed a fine of up to $750 per day for not doing so.
Read the amended regulation.
Catholic Standard story on the regulation.
The Archdiocese of Washington's legal brief on the problems with the amended regulation.
Fact sheet on the (original, as introduced) Montgomery County proposal.
Washington Post editorial opposes regulation harassing pregnancy resource centers.
Baltimore City Council Bill 09-0406
In 2009, Baltimore City Council passed legislation that required pro-life pregnancy resource centers to post a list of services they do NOT provide (abortion and contraception) or face a daily fine. The City Council twice rejected amendments that would similarly require abortion clinics to list services they do not provide (adoption, pre - and post-natal assistance, etc.) - a clear indication that the purpose of the bill was to harass pro-life charities, not about "truth in advertising." This ordinance went into effect in January 2010.
In March 2010, the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Center for Pregnancy Concerns have filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Baltimore because of violations of free speech and free exercise of religion in the law singling out pro-life pregnancy centers.
** In January 2011, the US District Court ruled in favor of the Archdiocese that Baltimore's law was unconstitutional. This major ruling is a victory for life, free speech and religious liberty. Read an article from the Catholic Review on the ruling.
Archbishop O'Brien's written testimony in opposition to Bill 09-0406.
Archbishop O'Brien's letter to the Baltimore City Council.
CareNet testimony on legal and constitutional problems with Bill 09-0406.