November 25, 2009 — The Baltimore City Council voted 12-3 to approve a bill requiring the city's crisis pregnancy centers to display signs in English and Spanish informing patients that the centers do not "provide or make referral for abortion or birth control services," the Baltimore Sun reports. Centers whose signs are not visible would have 10 days to post a notice or else incur a $150 daily fine.
According to council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D), the bill is "a step towards making sure that women have the information they need to make the right decision for their health and their future." Rawlings-Blake cited a study by an advocacy group showing that women who visit CPCs that offer counseling, clothing and food for pregnant women were misled about whether the centers also provide abortion care.
According to the Sun, the bill is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, though similar legislation is pending in Montgomery County, Md., the Sun reports. Baltimore's legislation would affect four CPCs. The bill now goes to Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon (D), who can either sign it, veto it or take no action, which would allow it to become law without her signature. According to the Sun, Dixon supports abortion rights but has not stated a position on the legislation.
Keiren Havens, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said, "At the very least now, these centers will have to put a sign up that lets women know that information about birth control and abortion won't be found within those doors."
Council members who voted against the bill questioned why it did not include disclosure requirements for clinics that offer abortion. Council member Bernard Young (D) said, "If they're going to ask the pregnancy centers to post a notice, they should ask Planned Parenthood too" (Scharper, Baltimore Sun, 11/24).