Newsday: Judge bars law aimed at pregnancy centers
2011-07-14 06:41:01.169 GMT

By John Riley
Newsday, Melville, N.Y.
July 14--A federal judge yesterday blocked a New York City
ordinance requiring "pregnancy counseling centers" designed to
encourage giving birth to disclose they don't offer abortion
The City Council argued that the law, which was scheduled
to take effect Thursday, would keep pregnancy centers that
oppose abortion from misleading women. But Manhattan U.S.
District Judge William Pauley said a forced message could
violate free speech rights.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn denounced the ruling
and pledged an appeal. "Today's decision means that pregnancy
service centers can continue deceiving women who seek their
services," Quinn said.
But the American Center on Law and Justice, which sought
an injunction on behalf of 13 pregnancy centers in the city,
called the ruling a "major victory" for anti-abortion advocates.
"This law, which forces crisis pregnancy centers to adopt
and express views about abortion and contraception that they
strongly disagree with, is constitutionally flawed," said CeCe
Heil, the group's senior counsel, in a statement. "The court
clearly understood that this law punishes pro-life advocates."
The pregnancy centers offer a range of services, from
testing and ultrasounds to counseling, parenting education,
referrals to adoption agencies and medical facilities, and
assistance such as diapers and baby formula.
Critics have said they are anti-abortion fronts that trick
women into thinking they are full service medical clinics. But
Pauley, in his ruling, said the evidence of that was anecdotal
and secondhand, and the law applied to all centers -- not just
those shown to have engaged in deceptive conduct.
"At the heart of the First Amendment," wrote Pauley,
quoting from an earlier free speech case, "lies the principle
that each person should decide for himself or herself the ideas
and beliefs deserving of expression, consideration and
Mayor Michael Bloomberg did not have a comment on the
decision, but his Law Department said that the ruling would be
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