On November 16, 2009, the Baltimore City Council took a giant step forward for women’s rights when they passed legislation on a 12-3 decision to stop Crisis Pregnancy Centers from misleading women into their services. The law, which still must be signed by the mayor of Baltimore, “would affect four centers in the city, requires counseling centers to post signs in English and Spanish stating that they do not “provide or make referrals for abortion or birth-control services.” (LA Times)
Members of the council hope that if and when this bill passes, other cities and states will take up similiar initiatives. If approved by the mayor, this would be the first law of its kind in the United States. “Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, called the vote a victory for women’s well-being. She cited a study by an advocacy group indicating that women have been misled at pregnancy centers that provide counseling, clothing and food for expectant mothers — but not abortions.” (LA Times)
“Currently, there are an estimated 2,593 CPCs nationwide, most of which are affiliated with one or more national umbrella organizations.” (Ms Magazine) These umbrella organizations are often religiously based and many of the nationwide CPCs, including all four of the centers located in Baltimore receive funding from religious organizations and maintain a strong anti-abortion stance. Unfortunatly, with a name like “Crisis Pregnancy Center”, many people are mislead about the services that are offered. In fact, many studies have been made and documented following would-be CPC patrons going into these centers and being bombarded by anti-choice employees who guilt the woman into keeping her eventual child. While the centers in Baltimore claim they are very upfront about their services, this law would only further protect patrons who are approaching a CPC for the first time.
Opponents of the law are really scraping the bottom of the barrel for excuses to strike the legislation down. “The thing that’s most disappointing about it is not the particular signs that are put up or the particular bill itself, but the message that it sends,” said Maryland Right to Life legislative director Jeffrey D. Meister. “This is the first time in the United States that any elected body has chosen to vote to condemn pregnancy centers.” (LA Times)
Funny how a law that demands transparency and openness from an organization…is simultaneously “condemning” them as well. The only message being sent by this legislation is that Baltimore will no longer allow CPCs to guise themselves under the misapprehension of helping women in crisis. The legislation in Baltimore is set to be approved by the city mayor in the next month. Hopefully, we can rely on Baltimore to set a national precedent and stop these CPCs from lying to women and guilting them into a religious anti-choice agenda.