March 28, 2011 — Two crisis pregnancy centers last week filed a lawsuit challenging a New York City law that requires the centers to disclose whether they offer abortion services, emergency contraception and prenatal care or refer for these services, the Wall Street Journal reports. Under the law, the information must be posted in English and Spanish in the centers and in advertisements. The suit was filed in Manhattan Federal Court by Expectant Mother Care/EMC Frontline Pregnancy Center and Life Centers of New York (Howard Saul, Wall Street Journal, 3/26).
The groups argue that the law violates free speech and the freedom of assembly, as well as other constitutional rights. According to court documents filed by Frontline, the law forces the personnel at the city's crisis pregnancy centers to "speak messages that they have not chosen for themselves, with which they do not agree and that distract from the messages they have chosen to speak" (Shifrel, New York Daily News, 3/25). Chris Slattery, founder of Frontline, said the new ordinance will increase the number of abortions in New York City, which has the highest abortion rate in the country.
New York City Council member Jessica Lappin said the law "does not limit free speech" and the city is prepared to defend it. She added that the law is about "truth in advertising and only regulates pregnancy centers so they cannot deceive women into thinking they are in a medical facility when they are not" (Wall Street Journal, 3/26).
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, "We ask the proponents of this lawsuit to stop wasting the court's time and resources and instead simply tell the truth about what their services are," adding, "This lawsuit is an attempt to further deceive women and make women believe ... that they are in a doctor's office when they are not" (New York Daily News, 3/25).
A federal judge in Maryland struck down a similar law in January (Wall Street Journal, 3/26).