Monday, July 9, 2012

Baltimore cannot "compel speech" from CPC.

Similar to previous stories, a federal judge ruled that Baltimore cannot force a CPC to post signs stating the CPC does not provide abortions or birth control.

In 2009 Baltimore passed a law requiring such signs, and Archbishop Edwin O'Brien filed suit, claiming the law violated free speech and assembly, free exercise of religion, equal protection under the 14th Amendment, and a conscience clause under Maryland Code.

In 2011 a U.S. district judge issued a permanent injunction against the law, saying it amounts to unconstitutional "compelled speech."  Baltimore appealed, and two more U.S. district judges upheld the decision, with another dissenting.
Niemeyer found the ordinance fails to target false advertising as it purports, it is overinclusive in its application to all pregnancy centers, and it ignores other alternatives that could accomplish the ordinance's goal without imposing speech on the centers, like starting its own educational campaign.
He wrote, "That the City resorted to speech restrictions before trying these or other similar options is more than enough to doom the ordinance."
 Several thoughts/questions:

  1. How would it affect the CPC if the ruling had gone the other way, and the CPC had been required to post a sign saying it does not provide abortions or birth control?
  2. I like that the judge specifically stated this law is overinclusive in its application to all pregnancy centers.  I've heard anecdotes of CPCs that mislead women, and anecdotes of CPCs that were forthright and helpful to women. What proportion of CPCs would need to be "bad apples" in order to justify compelling speech from all CPCs?  
  3. If some abortion clinics giving out false prenatal development information and some give out accurate information, what proportion of abortion clinics would need to be "bad apples" in order to justify, for example, mandating certain prenatal development information be discussed?  Or mandating ultrasounds?
  4. Do you think questions #2 & #3 are comparable?  Why or why not?
  5. Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe free speech can be restricted or speech can be compelled?  For example, should there be limits to freedom of speech in medical/scientific settings?

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