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New York City Pregnancy Centers Prevail in Challenge to Discriminatory Ordinance

Today, a federal judge in New York enjoined the enforcement of a discriminatory ordinance targeting pregnancy centers. The ordinance was enacted by the New York City Council at the instigation of abortion advocates and sought to require pregnancy centers to make mandatory disclosures about services they provide and those they do not provide including abortion and so-called “emergency contraception.”

U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III found that the risk of discriminatory enforcement under the ordinance, Local Law 17, is “high” because the ordinance involves abortion and “emergency contraception,” what the Judge Pauley termed “among the most controversial issues in our public discourse.” He also found that the ordinance does not provide sufficient guidance to and constraints on enforcement decisions to be made by the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The ordinance is enjoined pending the outcome of further litigation.

The New York City ordinance is just the latest in a desperate campaign by abortion advocates – led by NARAL Pro-Choice America (NARAL) – to discount and, ultimately, eliminate “competition” from pregnancy centers and to muzzle the First Amendment rights of such centers and their largely volunteer staffs. Similar ordinances enacted in Baltimore and Montgomery County, Maryland have also been enjoined.

The life-affirming impact of pregnancy centers (also known as “crisis pregnancy centers”) on the women and the communities they serve is considerable. Each year, the reach and influence of pregnancy centers grow as more centers open, as public opinion on abortion increasingly shifts to a pro-life ethic, and as the centers receive more favorable attention for their important work.

Each year, more than 2,500 pregnancy centers across the United States provide invaluable free services to hundreds of thousands of women facing unplanned pregnancies. Services offered by pregnancy centers typically include:

• Free pregnancy tests;
• One-on-one, nonjudgmental options counseling;
• Temporary housing, food, clothing, furniture, and other material assistance;
• Childbirth and parenting classes;
• Ultrasounds, pre-natal vitamins, and other medical care;
• Education and employment counseling;
• 24-hour telephone hotlines; and/or
• Referrals for health care and to adoption agencies and other support services.

Tellingly, there may be no better indicator of the positive impact that pregnancy centers are having by supporting women emotionally and financially, by protecting women from the adverse health consequences of abortion, and by helping to reduce the number of abortions performed each year than the increasingly desperate and largely unconstitutional attempts by pro-abortion advocates to unnecessarily regulate and, ultimately, shut these centers down. Even they, in their zeal to promote abortion-on-demand, cannot ignore the very real and increasingly powerful impact pregnancy centers are having on women and on public opinion about abortion.