October 11, 2011 — On Thursday, four crisis pregnancy centers in Austin, Texas, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a city ordinance that requires them to post signs stating that they do not provide contraception, abortion care or referrals for those services, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The four centers are asking for temporary and permanent injunctions that would block the city from enforcing the ordinance.
The ordinance, which took effect in April 2010, requires CPCs to display signs in English and Spanish that read, "This center does not provide abortions or refer to abortion providers. This center does not provide or refer to providers of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved birth control drugs and medical devices." City Council members have said the ordinance is not meant to penalize CPCs for their views but to clarify what services are offered at the centers.
A city spokesperson said no centers have been charged with violating the ordinance. Three of the CPCs said they have not posted the signs because they would conflict with their religious views.
Pam Cobern, executive director of the CPC Austin LifeCare, said the ordinance "is designed to criminally punish the leadership and volunteer board members of pregnancy centers for no other reason than their moral opposition to abortion." The centers noted that judges in New York City, Baltimore and Montgomery County, Md., have blocked enforcement of similar ordinances (Coppola, Austin American-Statesman, 10/7).