“Forcing pregnancy care centers to post a Scarlet Letter disclaimer is a violation of their free speech and conscience rights,” says AUL President, Dr. Charmaine Yoest

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA (12/6/12) – Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest and members of AUL’s team will be in Richmond on Thursday for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals arguments in Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore and Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County. At issue are ordinances enacted in Baltimore and Montgomery County requiring pregnancy care centers (PCCs) to post signs and make disclaimers regarding the services they do not offer. For example, the Baltimore ordinance requires PCCs to post signs that they “d[o] not provide or make referral for abortion or birth control services.”

“Pregnancy care centers operate across the country, staffed primarily by volunteers, to help pregnant women and new mothers make life-affirming decisions,” said Dr. Yoest. “To force them to post a Scarlet Letter disclaimer and point women away from life-affirming options is a violation of their First Amendment rights.”

In June, a three-judge Fourth Circuit panel handed two victories to PCCs in Baltimore and Montgomery County, striking ordinances aimed at coercing PCCs into leading women toward abortion. The panel ruled that the disclaimers required PCCs to participate in Baltimore officials’ “effort to tell pregnant women that abortions are available elsewhere as a morally acceptable alternative, contrary to the moral and religious beliefs of the Pregnancy Center.”

Noting that PCCs seek to provide free information about pregnancy, abortion, and birth control as informed by a religious and political belief, the Court concluded that this is the “kind of ideologically- driven speech [that] has routinely been afforded [to] the highest levels of First Amendment protection…”  However, Baltimore and Montgomery County asked the Fourth Circuit to rehear the cases, and the court granted a new hearing before the full court, which takes place at 9 a.m., December 6 in Richmond at the Circuit Court of Appeals federal building.

AUL filed an amicus curiae brief in the Baltimore case on behalf of Care Net, Heartbeat International, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, and several PCCs located in the Baltimore area, affirming that PCCs abide by high standards and seek to provide the best care and counseling for women.

For more information or for interviews, contact AUL’s media office at press@aul.org.