ADF lawsuit prompts city of Hartford to respect beliefs, speech of pro-life ministry
HARTFORD, Conn. – The city of Hartford has settled a lawsuit filed by a faith-based pregnancy center, agreeing that the center isn’t subject to a constitutionally suspect law that would have forced the center to post messages that undermine its life-affirming message. The settlement prompted Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the center, Caring Families, and attorneys representing the city to jointly and voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit on Friday.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar California law in 2018 in the ADF case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra.
“No government should steer women away from life-affirming help or force those trying to provide that help to make statements that undermine their message,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle. “Caring Families exists to help ensure that no woman feels alone, hopeless, or without options during an unexpected pregnancy. We commend the city for changing course and deciding not to use the force of law to make this pro-life care provider imply through its own communications that it is anything but competent and tolerant.”
The Hartford law compelled pregnancy centers to post signs and verbally share messages announcing, “This facility does not have a licensed medical provider on site to provide or supervise all services.” But as the ADF lawsuit explained, Caring Families has medical personnel on site for any medical services offered; its wide range of other services do not require supervision by a licensed medical provider.
As the settlement agreement in Caring Families v. City of Hartford states, “The City agrees that because Caring Families has licensed medical personnel on site at all times to provide and/or supervise such medical services, it does not consider Caring Families to be a ‘pregnancy services center’ under the Ordinance and will therefore not attempt to enforce the Ordinance—as to either its required disclosures or its advertising requirements—against Caring Families.”
The lawsuit contended that Hartford “crafted a speaker-based, viewpoint-based law, targeting the speech only of speakers espousing certain pro-life moral, religious, and philosophical beliefs.” Although claiming to provide “consumer protection,” the city exempted abortion facilities and community health centers from the ordinance, even in situations when they do not have “a licensed medical provider present at all times directly providing or directly supervising all medical services.”
“As the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018, pro-life pregnancy centers should be free to serve women without unjust government punishment,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot, vice president of the ADF Center for Life. “Hartford’s law only made it harder for women to seek out all of their options and obtain support. The city was wise to abandon enforcement of a hostile regulation that singled them out.”
The joint motion to dismiss in light of the settlement agreement was filed in Caring Families v. City of Hartford with the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Patricia Stewart, one of more than 3,100 attorneys allied with ADF, served as local counsel in the case for the pregnancy center.
- Pronunciation guide: Harle (HAR'-lee), Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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