Federal Appeals Court to Hold New Hearing on Baltimore’s Regulation of Deceptive Crisis Pregnancy Centers
08.15.12 – (PRESS RELEASE) The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has granted a new hearing in the case concerning Baltimore’s truth-in-advertising ordinance—the first of its kind in the nation—which requires crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post signs in their waiting rooms indicating that they do not provide or make referrals for abortion or comprehensive birth control services.
Today’s order from the full appeals court voids a June decision from a divided panel of judges striking down the ordinance—a decision one judge described as “indefensible” in his dissent.
“We applaud the Fourth Circuit for reconsidering this important case and we will continue to fight alongside the City of Baltimore in its efforts to protect residents from the deceptive business practices of so-called crisis pregnancy centers,” said Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The women of Baltimore deserve timely access to comprehensive reproductive health care services, not lies and delay tactics.”
The appeals court has scheduled the new hearing for December 6.
CPCs frequently advertise themselves as clinics that provide a full range of reproductive health services, but in practice are non-medical organizations that dissuade women from obtaining abortion and birth control services. In addition to deceptive advertising, some centers provide factually inaccurate information to patients and disregard patient confidentiality.
The Center for Reproductive Rights joined the City of Baltimore to defend the ordinance in June 2010 against a lawsuit filed by the Archbishop of Baltimore, a local parish, and the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns seeking to block enforcement of the ordinance.
In January 2011, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the CPC and its allies before the city was even able to submit evidence in support of its case, and the City and the Center immediately appealed the ruling to the Fourth Circuit.
Baltimore was the first city in the nation to pass legislation requiring these centers to disclose that they neither refer nor offer abortion services. Others cities including Austin, TX, New York City, and San Francisco have since introduced similar measures to curb the deceptive practices of these centers.
PRO-CHOICE AMERICANS STAND UP FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA’S CONTRACEPTIVE COVERAGE POLICY
Activists to hold events to celebrate progress for women, expose continuing legislative and legal attacks on birth control
Washington, D.C.—As the first phase of the contraceptive-coverage policy made possible by the health-reform law takes effect, affiliates of the nation’s leading reproductive-rights group are reminding Americans of the escalating attacks on birth control.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that, despite a public backlash against legislative attacks on contraception earlier this year, opponents of the health-reform law are continuing to wage attacks on women’s health.
“Contraception is an important part of women’s health care, “Keenan said. “That’s why we support President Obama’s policy that will make it possible for women to get insurance coverage of birth control without a copay, regardless of where they work. Some politicians and anti-contraception groups refuse to give up on their efforts to make it harder for women to get birth control. They want any small business, corporation, or insurance company, on the basis of personal beliefs, to deny any essential health-care service, including contraceptive coverage. These politicians and groups are out of touch with our values and priorities. That’s why we will stand with President Obama and other allies in fighting to protect contraceptive coverage for women.”
But this policy is still under attack. On August 1, the first phase of the contraceptive-coverage policy, as well as other important benefits, takes effect.
Unfortunately, Congress has introduced seven bills to dismantle it. For instance, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act (H.R.6097). Rep. Sensenbrenner’s bill would allow any employer – even one in the private sector – to refuse to provide this coverage for religious or moral reasons. The effect would be to place potentially millions of Americans’ contraceptive coverage in jeopardy.
To date, 24 lawsuits have been filed by various organizations, individuals, and several states challenging the policy. Just last Friday, a judge decided to allow a challenge against the Obama administration’s contraceptive-coverage policy to move forward. Heating and air-conditioning business owners who personally oppose contraception asked the court for permission to discriminate against their employees by denying them insurance coverage of birth control. The judge granted the business the temporary right to refuse to comply with the policy while the court prepares to hear the case.
NARAL Pro-Choice America and its affiliates are standing up to these attacks by out-of-touch politicians, and are asking their supporters to do the same. With a goal of channeling 100,000 messages to Congress in support of the contraceptive-coverage policy, the campaign also will leverage social media to counter attacks on birth control. The organization’s affiliates in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Virginia also are organizing visibility events to stand with President Obama and other allies as the health-reform law’s implementation moves forward.
What: Visibility event thanking President Obama
Where: 2722 University Ave. SE
When: Wednesday, August 1, at noon
Contact: Linnea House
Phone Number: 651-602-7655
What: Visibility outside of Rep. Charles Bass’ office, who has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its birth-control policy
Where: 114 North Main St.
When: Wednesday, August 1, at noon
Contact: Sara Crane
Phone Number 603-568-1921
What: Visibility event outside of Sen. Rob Portman’s office, a high-profile opponent of contraception
Where: 37 West Broad St.
When: Wednesday, August 1, at noon
Contact: Jaime Miracle
Phone Number: 614-221-2594
What: Walk for Women’s Health Event with special guests: Senate Majority Speaker Diane Rosenbaum, State Representative Lew Frederick, and State Representative Elisa Kenny-Geyer
Where: Hawthorne Bridge
When: Wednesday, August 1, at 4p.m.
Contact: Michele Stranger-Hunter
Phone Number: 503-223-4510 ext. 10
What: Visibility event outside of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office, a high-profile opponent of contraception
Where: 900 East Main Street
When: Wednesday, August 1, at 12:15 p.m.
Contact: Tarina Keene
Phone Number: 202-530-4162
Ted Miller, 202.973.3032
[Thank you Nevin Grossnickle for taking part in our Freedom for All Campaign.]
Earlier this year, President Obama compromised with U.S. Catholic bishops on access to birth control, by requiring health insurance companies that insure employees at Catholic-associated non-church institutions to provide contraception within their insurance starting in 2013. The President’s decision angered some on the right and on the left.
Now in June, the U.S. Catholic bishops have started a campaign to redefine religious liberty. Even though the vast majority of U.S. Catholics use modern contraception at some time in their reproductive years, the bishops campaign shouts from the pulpit that that limits religious freedom of the policies they support. By doing so, they deny the religious liberty of those who wish to be free of the dictates of the U.S. bishops.
The bishops idea of “religious freedom” means that employers, not medical professionals, should choose which safe, preventive, legal medications and procedures their employees can access, and which they can’t. For example, a Notre Dame or Marquette professor, who might or might not be Catholic, would not have contraception included within their health insurance even though 98% of Catholics and 99% of non-Catholics in the U.S. use contraception at some point in their lives. This simply requires the employees to shoulder the burden of paying for almost universally used contraception.
Contact President Obama, Senators Johnson and Kohl, and Representative Duffy, and tell them that you believe in religious liberty determined by medical professionals and employees, not by the dictates of Catholic bishops.
[Thank you to Louise Melling at the ACLU for this blog post.]
To hear the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) talk, you’d think that the foundation of our democracy was in peril. In fact, religious freedom is alive and well.
True religious freedom means that everyone has the right to their beliefs, but not a free pass to discriminate or use taxpayer dollars to impose their beliefs on others.
The bishops seem to feel otherwise. For example, USCCB took millions of federal dollars to administer a program for trafficking victims and prohibited sub-grantees from using funds to provide or refer for contraception and abortions. USCCB put its beliefs before the needs of victims, denying them much-needed reproductive health care – all with government support.
The ACLU successfully challenged this arrangement. The judge’s decision stated: “To insist that the government respect the separation of church and state is not to discriminate against religion; indeed, it promotes a respect for religion by refusing to single out any creed for official favor at the expense of all others.”
The bishops think otherwise. Their misguided “Fortnight for Freedom” asserts their perceived right to, among other things, deny adoptive families to children if the parents happen to be gay or lesbian; force hospitals to deny emergency care to a woman if the cost of saving her life is to terminate a pregnancy; and allow all employers to have a say over their employees’ reproductive health care by allowing them to refuse to include contraception in their insurance plans.
The bishops are correct: religious freedom is one of our most treasured liberties. But we have the right to a government that neither promotes nor disparages religion generally, nor any particular faith. We have the right to act on our religious beliefs, unless those actions harm others. These are freedoms worth celebrating – for a fortnight, and all year long.
[The Author of this Piece is Rich Wentzel. Thank you Rich for taking part in the Freedom for All Campaign.]
Cardinal Dolan of the Catholic Church is promoting a campaign to curb the implementation of The Affordable Care Act, specifically, that aspect requiring insurance companies to provide contraceptives as preventive care. The claim is that somehow this violates religious freedom in that this is morally objectionable to his Church. Dolan argues that Catholic schools, hospitals, as employers should be granted a special exemption.
Historically, it has always been the practitioners of a religion that ultimately determine its course and in fact contraceptive use among Catholics is quite common and well accepted in practice. Dolan may place his campaign under the guise of religious liberty and matters of conscience, but if his intent is to stop Catholics from using contraceptives, has he not already lost? Or if his campaign is based on an abstract principle that states that we should not be made to pay for that which we object to on moral grounds, what then? Quakers object for spending on nuclear bombs, others for research on genetics, cloning, etc. Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Mk 12.17
The Affordable Care Act offers greater care to more people at lower cost as a nation. Cardinal Dolan’s plan would thwart that goal by keeping the overall pool of participants smaller and continue to drive health care costs up. In the end, he is asking Catholics and non Catholics alike to pay more.