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Court halts Baltimore City Council’s harassing subpoena of pro-life pregnancy centers

Court squashes extensive demand for groups’ internal files

BALTIMORE – A federal court upheld a district court’s decision Friday that three pro-life organizations, not located in Maryland, cannot be required to produce thousands of pages of files by the Baltimore City Council in a lawsuit in which they have no involvement. In December 2014, a judge ruled the city’s requests were “grossly excessive.”

“Pro-life pregnancy centers offer free help and hope to women all over the country in almost 2000 more centers than Planned Parenthood has. They should be free to keep their internal files out of the hands of hostile government officials, just like all other organizations,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “The court was right to put a stop to this outrageous fishing expedition. It is bad enough that Baltimore passed an egregious ordinance against the free speech of local pro-life centers. The city has no authority to abuse court rules against pro-life groups nationwide.”

In May 2014, the city and the pro-abortion law firm Center for Reproductive Rights demanded access to thousands of pages of the organizations’ internal files allegedly to help the city defend an ordinance that forces pregnancy resource centers in Baltimore to post signs discouraging women from using their services. Since December 2014, the pro-life organizations have cooperated with the city by offering documents and testimony about their Baltimore activities.

ADF represents pro-life organizations Care Net, Heartbeat International, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates in the current dispute. It also represented Vitae Foundation, whose dismissal from the dispute ADF obtained earlier in 2015.

“The First Amendment protects the constitutional freedoms of all groups, including pro-life organizations,” added ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The court did the right thing in quashing most of these subpoenas and allowing pro-life organizations to freely continue their mission of advocating for and helping pregnant women without having to face a government inquisition.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Bowman (BOH-min'), 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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