Crisis Pregnancy Centers are anti-choice establishments that advertise and portray themselves as being legitimate clinics. They are volunteer-run and operate on financial and material donations. Material donations include but are not limited to diapers, baby food, wipes, clothing etc. Although a majority of these establishments do not overtly advertise themselves as being anti-choice, it becomes evident through their counseling sessions.
These centers trick women into believing that they are in a supportive place that will give unbiased information on all the options related to pregnancy (abortion, adoption, etc.). In the summer of 2017, volunteers from NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland decided to visit these so called ‘clinics’ to see what information they were offering, or lack thereof. They very firmly try to discourage girls to get abortions, offering their material support and offering financial support (that may not even be legitimate).
History of CPC’s in Maryland:
In 2009, Maryland became the first state in the nation to introduce a legislative measure to address the deceptive practices of anti-choice CPCs (then Delegate Roger Manno). Soon after the bill failed in committee, two similar ordinances were introduced, but were subsequently challenged. The Montgomery County measure lost on appeal in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court in 2014 and now after 9 years there is a ruling against the Baltimore City ordinance. As April 2018, the City of Baltimore has now appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, in the last few years there has been successful legislation enacted in other states, such as in California, New York, Hawaii, Washington, and Connecticut. We look forward to seeing the results of the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case, NIFLA v. Becerra, which was upheld by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but recently appealed by anti-choice advocates…We anticipate that oral arguments will be held in March and the ruling released by the end of June. The results will help guide what is possible in Maryland to stop these deceptive practices. The California law included a provision that unlicensed crisis pregnancy centers visibly advertise that no licensed medical providers are on site.
After investigating these clinics and posing as distressed pregnant women in their late teens, early 20’s, we at NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland have compiled a report on our findings. Our report will be published in May of 2018.
What’s the latest?
The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals returned the Baltimore City case to the District Court, ruling that the District Court had not followed the proper procedure and sending the case back to be reheard correctly. After several years, the federal court ruled against the city in September, 2016, and the city appealed. Oral arguments were heard in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 24, 2017. The Fourth Circuit panel ruled 3-0 against the city, finding that the ordinance violate the religious freedom of the CPC.
In case you missed how we got here, below is a timeline of events:
Investigation: Our first investigation of Crisis Pregnancy Centers (Read it here.)
Investigation: We conduct a second, in-depth investigation of CPCs. (The Truth Reveled Report)
Legislation: Working with the Baltimore City Council, we help pass Ordinance 09-0406, making Baltimore city the first place in the country to ask CPCs to disclose the truth about their practices.
Litigation: CPCs challenge the ordinance in court in order to avoid being honest about their services, and the ordinance is not enforced, pending the court’s decision.
Legislation: Following the example of Baltimore City, Montgomery County, MD, passes Resolution 16-1252, a similar regulation on pregnancy centers.
Litigation: CPCs challenge the Montgomery legislation. In Baltimore, a district court sides with CPCs. Baltimore City appeals the ruling.
Litigation: A district court sides partially with Montgomery County and partially with CPCs, allowing half of the ordinance to go into effect and enjoining the other half, until the merits of the cases are decided. The decision is appealed.
Investigation: We map out locations of as many CPCs as we can find in Maryland. (Is there a CPC in your neighborhood?)
Litigation: A three judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules 2-1 in favor of CPCs in both Baltimore City and Montgomery County, MD. The majority (Judges Niemeyer and Agee) sided with the CPCs, while Judge King likened the proceedings to a “kangaroo court” and said that the majority “decision is, in a word, indefensible.” Baltimore and Montgomery file to have the case heard en banc so that the entire court will hear the case. The court accepts Baltimore’s request and oral arguments are heard on December 6, 2012.
The Fourth Circuit ruling on the Baltimore case stated that the lower court’s decision against the ordinance was too hasty and the court had denied the pro-choice defendants the opportunity to submit evidence countering the anti-choice CPC’s claims. The Montgomery County decision applied to the district court’s partial preliminary injunction of the ordinance requiring that CPCs post signs that (1) they do not have medical personnel on staff and (2) the County recommends that pregnant women seek care from a medical professional. The district court, while allowing the first provision to go into effect, had enjoined the second. The Fourth Circuit upheld that decision, and the case against the ordinance’s merits will continue in the district court.
Education: We create the It’s Lies campaign, a groundbreaking educational campaign on Baltimore City buses that educated people about the deceptive tactics used by CPCs.
Litigation: The District Court rules against Montgomery County. The Baltimore case is still pending.
Education: The It’s Lies campaign moves forward with billboards and more bus advertising in Baltimore City.
Litigation: Federal court rules against Baltimore City in September. The city has appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Investigation: We conduct a third, in-depth investigation of CPCs as well as legal and policy research to explore legislative options in light of recent ordinances and statewide measures that have been upheld in court challenges, such as in California, New York, and Washington states. Investigative report is forthcoming.
Litigation: Oral arguments were heard on October 24, 2017 in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding Baltimore City ordinance.
Litigation: U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rules against Baltimore City, January 5, 2018.