Sunday, July 17, 2011

Judge Protects Pro-life Free Speech in New York

Scolding city officials for supporting a law he called “offensive to free speech principles,” a federal judge on Wednesday temporarily barred New York City from enforcing a new law that would require crisis pregnancy centers to disclose more information about their services.

-- From "Judge Blocks City’s Crisis Pregnancy Center Law" by David W. Chen, New York Times 7/13/11

The law, which had the strong backing of Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, was scheduled to go into effect on Thursday. It would have required such centers to detail whether they provided abortions or emergency contraception, and whether they had a licensed medical provider on-site.

The City Council had enacted the law in March, framing it as a matter of consumer protection and truth in advertising, not long after Naral Pro-Choice New York released a report saying it had found crisis pregnancy centers using deceptive tactics and false claims to dissuade women from having abortions.

But opponents of the law argued that it violated free speech rights and was motivated chiefly by politics. And in an often tart 22-page ruling, Judge William H. Pauley III essentially sided with the opponents, writing that the city’s definition of commercial speech was too broad.

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From "Abortion Foes Celebrate Judge's Ruling Blocking New York City’s Disclosure Law" posted at 7/15/11

Critics argued the law is unconstitutional because it violated the centers’ right to free speech and unfairly singled out anti-abortion groups and not places like Planned Parenthood. But supporters say the law will strengthen consumer protection by cracking down on false or misleading advertising.

Pauley rejected the city’s attempt to regard an assembly of people as part of the definition of an economic commodity.

“Under such a view, flyers for political rallies, religious literature promoting church attendance, or similar forms of expression would constitute commercial speech merely because they assemble listeners for the speaker,” he wrote in his opinion.

“Accepting that proposition would permit the government to inject its own message into virtually all speech designed to advocate a message to more than a single individual and thereby eviscerate the First Amendment’s protections.”

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From "Federal Judge Issues Injunction Against NY City Law Targeting CPCs" by Dave Andrusko, National Right to Life News 7/15/11

Judge Pauley’s decision is the third time in less than six months a federal judge has slapped down pro-abortion efforts to abridge the free speech rights of women helping centers. The other two are Judge Deborah Chasanow (a law passed by the Montgomery County Council) and Judge Marvin J. Garbis (an ordinance passed by the Baltimore City Council).

Judge Pauley’s opinion was reminiscent of Judge Garbis’s findings.

“Local Law 17” was replete with requirements, including that crisis pregnancy centers “post signs in the lobbies of their counseling centers, add extensive additional written language to their advertising materials, and to provide oral statements during both ‘in person’ and telephonic conversations regarding the services offered by crisis pregnancy centers,” according to ACJU which was one of the counsels for the plaintiffs– Expectant Mother Care/EMC Frontline Pregnancy Center and Life Centers of New York, two CPCs.

Among the many requirements of Local Law 17 is to state whether the facility provides referrals for abortion and emergency contraception.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.