Pro-Lifers--Baltimore City Council Targets Pregnancy Centers

| by Baptist Press

BALTIMORE, MD -- Most of the members of the Baltimore (Md.) City Council are promoting a measure that would require pregnancy help centers to post a sign saying they do not provide abortions or contraceptives.

Pro-lifers, including Baltimore's Roman Catholic archbishop, say the bill (ordinance 09-0406) is a form of harassment.

Stephanie Rawlings-Burke, the city council president, and 10 other council members are sponsors of legislation that would fine any pregnancy center that does not post the sign, which must be in English and Spanish. Including the president, the council has 15 members. Rawlings-Burke said she proposed the bill after receiving complaints about the centers. The Baltimore City Health Department backs the bill.

Archbishop Edwin O'Brien told Rawlings-Burke in an Oct. 16 letter the proposal discriminates against pro-life centers.

"The bill does not on the other hand seek to fine abortion clinics for not posting a list of services they do not provide (e.g., parenting classes, maternity and infant clothes, formula)," he wrote.

The measure is similar to one supported by Planned Parenthood last year in the Maryland legislature, The Catholic Review reported. Planned Parenthood, which is the country's No. 1 abortion provider, also is promoting the Baltimore bill, said Nancy Paltell of the Maryland Catholic Conference's respect life office.

"We are providing community services that the city doesn't provide and now they're going to harass us for it," Paltell said, according to the newspaper. "We're saving the city money, but does the city give one dime to these pregnancy centers? No."

Carol Clews, director of the city's Center for Pregnancy Concerns, also opposes the bill.

"We are very up front and very clear about what we provide for these women and what we don't provide. They are impugning our integrity. It's frivolous and it's harassment," Clews told WBAL-TV.

O'Brien, the archbishop, told the TV station, "I've never heard of a private institution or a public business being asked to advertise what they don't do under the penalty of a fine.... If we're really looking to protect people in this whole field, I'd say, 'Let's start with the abortion factories."