AG Steven Marshall files brief to protect pregnancy center’s free speech

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Attorney General Steven Marshall has joined a 10-state effort, filing an amicus brief urging a federal appeals court to support a religious organization’s right to free speech to allow them to talk about and offer alternatives to abortion.

Alabama was part of a coalition’s friend-of-the-court brief, filed April 3 in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief defended a pregnancy center in Maryland, the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, against the City of Baltimore’s attempts to undermine its ability to speak about and offer alternatives to abortion.

In 2009, the City of Baltimore passed a city ordinance that requires such centers with pro-life pregnancy counselors to post signs telling clients that the facility does not provide abortions or referrals. However, the city fails to require abortion clinics to display the services which they do not offer, including adoption or prenatal care.

“The clear aim of the city ordinance is to impede the mission of pro-life counseling centers and silence the expression of religious belief,” said Marshall. “A city cannot treat crisis pregnancy centers different from abortion clinics simply because it dislikes their pro-life message.”

Marshall and the other states argue the ordinance uses consumer protection as cover to violate the First Amendment, by targeting the non-commercial speech of charitable organizations who wish to communicate sincerely-held religious beliefs about abortion.

Alabama signed onto the West Virginia-led brief with attorneys general from Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.