A Big Win for Crisis Pregnancy Centers in New York City

New York City cannot force pregnancy centers to post signs telling women to go elsewhere for care.

In a ruling on Friday, January 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated mandatory disclosure provisions of New York’s Local Law 17, which was passed by the New York City Council and signed into law by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in March 2011.   Although the law would have gone into effect in summer 2011, implementation had been delayed, pending an appeal by pro-life centers.

If implemented, Local Law 17 would have required pro-life pregnancy centers to post notices stating whether they provide referrals to abortion sellers.  They also were required to state whether there is a licensed medical provider on staff.  Failure to comply would have resulted in fines of up to $1,000 the first day, and up to $2,500 for each day thereafter.

Under the law, which was introduced by pro-abortion NY Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, pregnancy services centers would have been required to disclose:

  1. Whether or not they “have a licensed medical provider on staff who provides or directly supervises the provision of all of the services at such pregnancy service center”;
  2. “that the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene encourages women who are or who may be pregnant to consult with a licensed provider; and
  3. Whether or not they “provide or provide referrals for abortion,” “emergency contraception,” or “prenatal care.”

The required disclosures would have to be posted at clinic entrances and in waiting rooms, on advertisements, and repeated during telephone conversations.

Matt Bowman

Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, applauded the appeals court decision.  Bowman said,

“Pro-life pregnancy centers, which offer free help and hope to women and their preborn children, shouldn’t be punished by the political allies of the abortion industry.  The appeals court rightly affirmed that the city cannot force pregnancy centers to communicate some city-crafted messages that encourage women to go elsewhere.”

Bowman expressed concern, however, that the court left in place one provision that still does that.  “The Second Circuit reinstated one provision of the ordinance,” Bowman explained, referring to the first provision which still requires the centers to state whether they have a licensed medical provider on staff,

“…but did not provide any clarity as to whom it applies and when the city’s language must be recited.  The district court was right about the vagueness of the entire ordinance.  It should be completely invalidated.”

The ADF is considering its options regarding the remaining provision of New York City’s ordinance.