New York City Council considers ”’crippling’ crisis pregnancy center bill

By Matthew Anderson

NEW YORK CITY, New York, November 17, 2010 ( ”“ The New York City Council considered a bill yesterday that would require crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post signs warning that the CPCs do not provide abortion services. The bill, which was described as potentially “crippling” by one New York pro-life leader, would also require that CPCs state whether they have a licensed physician on staff.

Bill 371 was introduced to the City Council at a meeting on October 13th and was immediately referred to the Committee on Women’s Issues for consideration. The Committee held a hearing yesterday, November 16th, on the bill.

Before the hearing, Chris Slattery of Emergency Mother Care Frontline Pregnancy Centers sent out a statement hoping to rally support for the city’s crisis pregnancy centers. “We have been fighting full strength for a full month now, getting ready for today’s afternoon and evening hearings,” said Slattery.

“This bill’s set of unconstitutional laws could cripple our work with its new free speech-strangling regulations of our advertising and outreach with the threats of staggering fines, and probable shutdowns of our offices aimed at crippling our work of ministry to abortion minded clients.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, about 50 people on either side of the issue turned out for the hearings. Among those who spoke was City Council member Jessica Lappin, one of the bill’s primary sponsors. Lappin argued that the bill was not biased, but was only intended to protect “women’s health.”

“There are two dozen anti-choice centers masquerading as health clinics right here in New York City ”¦ Rather than provide full and accurate medical information to women they mislead and manipulate them,” said Lappin, according to WSJ.

Slattery, however, defended the crisis pregnancy centers, saying that while some do not have licensed physicians on staff, many of them do.

Council Member Daniel Halloran pointed out that the bill is inherent unfair, since abortion clinics are not required to post signs describing what services they don’t supply.

Whereas pregnancy centers specialize in providing women in distress with the counseling and resources that they need to be able to keep their babies, Halloran suggested that Planned Parenthood, which specializes in killing those babies, should have to change its name to indicate that it also aids in “nonparenthood.”

The bill is similar to two laws currently enforced in Baltimore, Maryland and Austin, Texas. These bills also require CPCs to post signs explaining that they do not provide abortions. The Baltimore law is currently being challenged by the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Alliance Defense Fund.

In March, Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien called the Baltimore law “a clear violation of these centers’ constitutional rights to free speech and their free exercise of religion.” The Archbishop went on to say that the ordinance “runs directly counter to Maryland’s conscience clause, which protects the rights of Maryland’s citizens to refuse to provide or refer for abortions.”

It is not yet known when the New York City Council will vote on their version of the law.