What's at stake
Whether New York City can restrict the speech of pro-life pregnancy centers
In March 2011, the New York City Council passed an ordinance that compelled pro-life pregnancy centers, which had the “appearance” of a medical facility or provided ultrasounds, to speak three messages: (1) whether the center has a licensed medical provider on staff or who supervises the provision of services; (2) that the City recommends pregnant women consult with a licensed provider; and (3) whether the center provides or refers for abortions, emergency contraception, or prenatal care. The messages were required to be included in every advertisement, on two signs at each center, and in many phone calls. The City required no similar signage by abortion facilities.
Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit on behalf of three pregnancy centers that offer free information and help so that women may choose birth instead of abortion. In January 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that disclosures (2) and (3) were unconstitutional under the First Amendment, but upheld the requirement that centers disclose whether they employ a licensed medical provider.
In March 2016, Alliance Defending Freedom and the City of New York entered a settlement agreement. Consistent with the agreement, the City enacted regulations that clarified several provisions of the remaining portion of the law to protect practices such as offering free pregnancy test kits that women self-administer, and centers using nurses or other licensed professionals to provide medical services such as ultrasounds. The settlement also ensured that if the City prosecutes centers under its new regulations the centers have the right to renew their lawsuit.
“Pro-life pregnancy care centers, which offer free help and hope to women and their unborn children, shouldn’t be punished by political allies of abortionists,” said Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “The 2nd Circuit panel rightly affirmed that the city cannot force pregnancy centers to communicate some city-crafted messages that encourage women to go elsewhere. The settlement with the City effectively protects pro-life centers in their current practices, and preserves their right to return to court if the City changes its approach later.”
Our role in this case
ADF served as lead counsel.