Court Decision Protects Free Speech Rights of Pro-Life Centers in Baltimore
In a ruling seven years in the making, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the city of Baltimore to “lay down the arms of compelled speech” it had taken up against pro-life pregnancy centers, once and for all, last Friday.
The decision upholds a series of previous rulings in favor of Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, the named plaintiff who challenged a 2009 city ordinance that forced the city’s Christian nonprofit pregnancy centers to post signage in their waiting rooms saying they do not offer or refer for abortions.
City politicians will no longer be able to abuse their power to silence those with differing messages.
Now, rather than strong-arming their opponents, they must — in the words of the court — “wield only the tools of persuasion” in their effort to appease Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and others in the abortion lobby who backed the law from its inception to its recent demise at the 4th Circuit.
At least 10 pregnancy help centers in the city of Baltimore are being spared the city’s “weaponized” attack on their work — including Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, which opened its fifth location in May 2017, right next door to a Planned Parenthood.
A legal process that has played out since early 2010 has failed to establish even one instance of pregnancy centers deceiving or misleading women into their offices, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in the ruling.
“After seven years of litigation and a 1,295-page record before us, the city does not identify a single example of a woman who entered the Greater Baltimore Center’s waiting room under the misimpression that she could obtain an abortion there,” Wilkinson, a Ronald Reagan appointee, wrote.
With pregnancy centers awaiting the Supreme Court’s say on a 2015 California law that forces state-licensed pro-life medical clinics to tell women where and how to get taxpayer-funded abortions, the 4th Circuit’s ruling could play into a number of state and local efforts to curb life-saving alternatives to abortion.
As Wilkinson pointed out in his decision, the Baltimore and California cases are distinct from one another because of the actual wording of their respective mandates, as well as the nature of clinic licensure in each state.
However, both laws are the result of a hostile effort to silence one side of the debate. That’s why both — as well as those in Hawaii, Illinois, New York City and Hartford (Connecticut) — run afoul of the First Amendment and could be struck down in the long run.
“A speech edict aimed directly at those pregnancy clinics that do not provide or refer for abortions is neither viewpoint nor content neutral,” Wilkinson wrote. “We do not begrudge the city its viewpoint. But neither may the city disfavor only those who disagree.”
Abortion Fans Neck-Deep in Science Denial
While the decision likely marks the end of the road for Baltimore’s attack on pregnancy centers, it’s also just one of a recent flurry of failed hit jobs from abortion advocates aimed at alternatives to their only solution in an unexpected pregnancy.
In addition to the more significant loss in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, abortion crusaders have recently been dealt two stunning defeats in their all-out war on pro-life centers.
In December 2017, the California Board of Registered Nursing cleared a path for Heartbeat International — a worldwide network of over 2,400 pregnancy help locations, which includes Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns — to educate U.S. nurses on a life-saving intervention known as Abortion Pill Reversal.
The decision from California’s nursing board came at the tail end of a nearly two-year battle sparked and fueled solely by abortion extremists bent on robbing women of the choice to reject a chemical abortion once they’d started the procedure.
Having successfully saved 400 babies and counting — and backed by a provider network of 350 physicians — Abortion Pill Reversal is consistently and relentlessly decried by abortion devotees as “unproven” and “junk science” despite the fact that it’s responsible for rescuing babies like Giselle, born Dec. 1, 2017.
While the abortion-only ideology is clearly pervasive in California politics, the board of nursing withstood heavy pressure from abortion lobbyists and kowtowing lawmakers alike, choosing instead to agree with Heartbeat International’s argument that Abortion Pill Reversal is both science-based and effective — even though it’s unpopular with the left.
A Big Waste of Time
A third strategy now backfiring in real time is abortion zealots’ ongoing effort to smear pregnancy centers with fake clients and fake online reviews.
Former comedienne Lizz Winstead launched the latest wave of vitriol last summer with her so-called “Expose Fake Clinics” campaign. The campaign not only failed, it failed spectacularly.
In Winstead’s opening salvo, a phony rally outside of a life-saving center in Pittsburgh, a man and his son — a toddler whose life had been saved through the center’s work — interrupted Winstead’s snarling crew and forced them to face the fact that his son was there as a result of the center’s ongoing work.
Winstead’s efforts continued to flounder, but she tried to resurrect the project this fall, this time with a special emphasis on ginning up negative pregnancy center reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp and Yahoo.
Rather predictably — considering 99 percent of pregnancy center clients report a positive experience — the online plank of Winstead’s campaign failed just as spectacularly as its in-person version, with Google removing several dozen fake reviews by late October.
Shades of Winstead’s online crusade continued through late 2017 and into the new year, but Tim Stephens of Extend Web Services — which creates and hosts websites and monitors online ratings for 169 pregnancy centers — said Google has removed hundreds of negative reviews to date, with more reviews coming down every day.
“We’ve finally been able to get Google to take a stand against these slanderous campaigns that are using Google’s own tools to spread false information and attack pregnancy centers,” Stephens said.
“The campaigners thought they were going to lay waste to the online reputations of pro-life organizations, but really the only waste left behind was their own time.”
As the abortion industry continues to spin its wheels in opposition to pro-life efforts, the pregnancy help community continues to celebrate lives saved and families transformed, one woman at a time.
And, should the courts continue to shift the battlefield from government coercion to compassionate persuasion, the pregnancy help community can expect to go on celebrating more and more lives in the coming year.
Jay Hobbs is director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, the world’s largest network of pro-life pregnancy help centers, and editor of PregnancyHelpNews.com.
Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal