Wall Street Journal: Free Speech Cited in Clinics Ruling
By MICHAEL HOWARD SAUL
July 14, 2011
Original Available Here
Citing free-speech rights, a federal judge blocked a city law requiring emergency-pregnancy centers to disclose that they don't offer abortion services.
The law scheduled to take effect Thursday poses a significant threat to abortion opponents' First Amendment rights, U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III said in a sweeping 22-page ruling Wednesday that imposed a preliminary injunction. The city plans to appeal.
The judge questioned the legality of a law that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had heralded as a consumer-protection measure designed to set strict disclosure requirements at centers that she and others said deceive women into believing they are full-service reproductive-health facilities. Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the measure four months ago.
The ruling follows two others in Maryland that found legal problems with similar ordinances.
The law requires all pregnancy services centers to disclose whether they provide abortions, emergency contraception and prenatal care, or make referrals to organizations that do. The information would have to be posted in English and Spanish at the centers and in ads.
Opponents of abortion rights said requiring them to post a sign about abortions in their facilities violates their free-speech rights.
"We're absolutely, completely vindicated" by the judge's ruling, said Chris Slattery, president of Expectant Mother Care Frontline Pregnancy Centers, one of the plaintiffs in the case.
"They just threw out the First Amendment on the altar of the abortion industry," he said, referring to city lawmakers.
Ms. Quinn, a Manhattan Democrat, called the judge's ruling "deeply disappointing," "wholly unacceptable" and a "disservice to women."
Council Member Jessica Lappin, the legislation's lead sponsor, said the "judge got it wrong."
A spokeswoman for Mr. Bloomberg declined to comment about the decision.
In March, Mr. Bloomberg said he had a clear conscience when he signed the legislation into law, but he voiced uncertainty about whether the law would survive a legal challenge.
"You can challenge it in court," he told abortion opponents. "If it's constitutional or not, I just don't know."