A recent ruling that it is unconstitutional to force pregnancy centers in Baltimore to put up signs declaring they have no licensed medical professional may help other centers facing similar pressures, said a faith-based legal group.
U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis ruled on Jan. 28 that city council violated the pregnancy centers' freedom of speech by requiring "pro-life" pregnancy centers to post such a sign. Alliance Defense Fund Senior Council Casey Mattox anticipates the Baltimore judge's ruling will be favorable towards the pending case of a Silver Spring pregnancy resource center forced to post signs declaring that it is a limited-service pregnancy center.
Mattox told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the current law in Montgomery is carefully worded to put pregnancy centers at a disadvantage.
"It was intentionally worded to regulate pregnancy center and not regulate abortion centers," he said.
The Montgomery County Council's current law describes county pregnancy centers as limited-service because they do not have a licensed medical professional on staff. As "limited service" organizations, the council has mandated that pregnancy centers put up signs that declare the center "does not have a licensed medical professional on staff" and that the "Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider."
Supporters of the law said it is needed because such centers were providing inaccurate information to women.
However, Mattox argued the only reason abortion clinics have licensed medical professionals on staff is because the professionals are needed to perform the surgical procedure which removes an unborn baby from the womb.
The Silver Spring clinic only counsels women about their other choices, and has never pretended to be more than that, argued Mattox.
The disclaimers, he contended, are simply an attempt to run desperate women away from the centers.
"It's basically a sign to tell women, in the [opinion] of Montgomery County, you should go somewhere else."
Montgomery County Attorney Marc Hansen told the Gazette that the Montgomery County Council altered its law last year to address legal questions in the Baltimore legislation.
However, Mattox asserts the county council modeled its bill after Baltimore's and the differences between the two are miniscule.
Kristen Hansen, president of Care Net, told The Christian Post that its pregnancy centers in New York City have registered nurses who operate sonogram machines and administer pregnancy tests. Its unlicensed staff also receive medical training prepared by a board which consists of medical professionals.
In New York, an attempt to pass a disclaimer law has led many in the faith community to hold a rally on Jan. 13. Pro-life activists Dr. Alveda King and Chris Slattery, director of EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers, led the rally.
After waiting seven months for a ruling, Mattox expects that the Montgomery law will also be overturned.
Until a ruling is handed down, the Silver Spring pregnancy center is currently complying with Montgomery County's law. Failure to post such signs can result in fines of more than $20,000 a month –$500 for the first day of violation and $750 for each day thereafter.