Anti-choice pregnancy centers in Baltimore got a boost from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals last week in Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore. Granting the plaintiff’s request for summary judgment based on a First Amendment claim, the Court struck down Baltimore City Ordinance 09-252, which required that “limited-service pregnancy centers” post signs disclaiming that they “do not provide or make referral for abortion or birth control services.”Ruling the law facially unconstitutional, the Court said the ordinance compelled speech that was not viewpoint neutral–namely that medical services like abortion and birth control dispensing existed but are not available at that center. Though this supposed “viewpoint” is more reasonably understood as a statement of fact, Judge Niemeyer (whose anti-choice views are well established) finds fault with the law because he believes it represents the “City’s effort to tell pregnant women that abortions are available elsewhere as a morally acceptable alternative.”
The Court also jettisoned the city’s argument that the law was regulating speech for a public health purpose, saying that the Court lacked satisfactory evidence that a public health concern exists. This despite the thorough Waxman and NARAL reports that document rampant deceptive practices by pregnancy centers, including centers in the City of Baltimore.
In the 4th Circuit, it seems, women’s health is not public health.