On March 30, after more than four years, a civil case brought by three pregnancy care centers against New York City was settled in the centers’ favor.
The case, Pregnancy Care Center of NY v. City of New York, was brought in response to Local Law 17, which then Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law in March, 2011, after it was passed by the City Council. The law required pregnancy centers to inform potential visitors—in both advertising and prominently within the facilities themselves—whether they provided abortion services or referrals, prenatal care, emergency contraception, and if there was a medical provider on staff.
The centers sued the City in federal court, seeking an injunction against enforcement of the law, which was to take effect on July 14, 2011. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued an order prohibiting enforcement, and the law was struck down. The District Court found that the compelled disclosures were inconsistent with the First Amendment rights of the pregnancy centers. New York City then appealed the ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Early in 2014, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit re-instated one requirement of the law: that pregnancy centers had to advertise whether they had a medical provider on staff. Effectively, they were forced to inform clients that they lacked medical licenses. The pregnancy centers sought review of the case by the highest court of the land. But the Supreme Court denied petition for writ for certiorari in November 2014. Practically speaking, the nine justices decided to leave intact the Appeals Court ruling, which upheld that provision and struck down the other parts of the law.
The settlement reached this spring means that pregnancy centers cannot be forced to speak or post messages contrary to their pro-life beliefs or that would in effect direct women away from their services.
Pregnancy centers in New York City are under constant scrutiny. Many believe Local Law 17 was part of an agenda to close down them down. Mayor De Blasio has referred to them as “sham” clinics that do not offer legitimate health care. Meanwhile, De Blasio has promised to help abortion providers expand their businesses in the city. Under his watch, Planned Parenthood has already opened a new clinic this year in the borough of Queens.
As abortion rates continue to decline in New York City, pregnancy care centers are playing a crucial role in educating women and men about alternatives to abortion. This settlement ensures they can continue their work unencumbered by unfair regulations.