Thursday, July 14, 2011

Court Enjoins New York City's Disclosure Law For Pregnancy Centers

In Evergreen Association, Inc. v. City of New York, (SD NY, July 13, 2011), a New York federal district court issued a preliminary injunction preventing New York City's Local Law 17 from taking effect as scheduled today. The law requires "pregnancy services centers" that do not have a licensed medical professional on the premises to make disclosures regarding the availability of a licensed medical provider, and whether it provides referrals for abortions, emergency contraception and prenatal care. The disclosures must be made in English and Spanish on signs in the waiting room and elsewhere, in any ads for the center, and orally to anyone requesting abortion, emergency contraception or prenatal care.

The court concluded that the ordinance violates defendants' free speech rights by compelling defendants to disseminate a particular message.  It held that strict scrutiny applies in reviewing the ordinance because plaintiffs' offering of pregnancy services were not commercial speech. Instead they were grounded in their opposition to abortion and emergency contraception. The court concluded that while the law was enacted to counteract deceptive practices that interfere with access to reproductive health services or mislead women into believing they had received care from a licensed medical provider, it is not narrowly tailored. Less burdensome alternatives are available to achieve the city's purpose. Also the court found that the definition of "pregnancy services center" is unconstitutionally vague. The American Center for Law and Justice issued a press release announcing the decision.