Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Required Disclaimer By Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers Violates Free Speech Protections

In Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, (D MD, Jan. 28, 2011), a Maryland federal district court struck down as a violation of free expression a Baltimore ordinance requiring various disclosures by limited-service pregnancy centers.  Under the ordinance, any facility providing pregnancy-related services, but which does not provide or refer for abortions or certain kinds of birth control, must post a sign in its waiting room notifying patients of that fact. Finding that the ordinance regulates protected non-commercial speech and is based at least in part on disagreement with the viewpoint of the speaker, the court held that a strict scrutiny standard applies in reviewing the ordinance. It concluded that the requirement to post a disclaimer is not the least restrictive means of combating the city's concern over false or misleading advertising by pregnancy centers. The suit was brought by the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns that operates in rent-free space provided by the Catholic archdiocese. AP via First Amendment Center reports on the decision.