According to a recent article in the Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore City ordinance requires local crisis pregnancy centers to post signs in their clinics disclosing that they do not offer abortion or birth control services. Apparently, this ordinance has angered the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which has decided to file a lawsuit in the Federal District Court, seeking to have the ordinance declared unconstitutional. Its argument is that the government should be prohibited from compelling speech by requiring the clinics to post signs. Why would the Archdiocese want to get rid of an ordinance, which, in essence, tells the public “you cannot get an abortion here?”
It appears that the Archdiocese’s remonstration has more to do with what the clinics do separate and apart from what the ordinance requires. Because the clinics must disclose that they do not offer abortion services, some of the clinics choose to post another notice, which informs the public about clinics that do offer abortion services. The ordinance does not require such a notice.
The Archdiocese seems to assume that the clinics would not have the incentive to post information on abortion clinics in the absence of the ordinance. This assumption appears attenuated at best. Were these notices voluntarily posted by the clinics before the ordinance was enacted? Even if the ordinance were to be repealed, would the clinics still choose to post these notices? After all, they are not compelled to post the notices under the ordinance at the present time. Whether or not a clinic chooses to post information on abortion clinics, can a patient simply walk in and inquire about abortion clinics? The bottom line is that these clinics disclose information on abortion services because they want to and not because they have to.
I am curious if the Archdiocese would still want to pursue a lawsuit to repeal the ordinance if the clinics did not post notices with information on abortion clinics. Would it still have a problem with an ordinance telling the public “no abortions here.” Your thoughts?
Contributing author: Jon Stefanuca