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Federal Judge Stops Enforcement of Montgomery County Law on Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Federal Judge Stops Enforcement of Montgomery County Law on Crisis Pregnancy Centers

March 17, 2011 — Federal Judge Deborah Chasanow ruled that part of a Montgomery County law that requires crisis pregnancy centers to post signs informing patients that "The Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider" could not go into effect, the Washington Examiner reports.

Chasanow said that the plaintiff in the case "demonstrated a likelihood of success on a First Amendment claim" and that the requirement that the signs encourage women to consult with a physician is likely unconstitutional. Matt Bowman -- a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, which filed the suit on behalf of Centro Tepeyac, a CPC -- said, "The First Amendment prevents the government from compelling people to speak the government's message," adding, "That message was an attempt to force pregnancy centers to tell women to go somewhere else."

Clifford Royalty -- chief of the county's Division of Zoning, Land Use and Economic Development who is representing the county in the suit -- noted that the judge deemed the first part of the sign -- informing patients that there are no licensed medical professionals on staff -- likely constitutional, representing a partial victory for the county (Redmond, Washington Examiner, 3/17).

Chasanow's ruling follows a similar one by U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis, who in January ruled that a Baltimore ordinance (FID 09-0406) requiring crisis pregnancy centers to post signs saying they do not provide abortions or birth control violates the Freedom of Speech Clause of the Constitution and cannot be enforced (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/31).