Federal courts have made two recent rulings in favor of pro-life supporters.
United States District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett ruled July 12 in Baltimore that local police violated the constitutional rights of seven pro-life demonstrators who held graphic signs along a Maryland highway as part of a “Face the Truth” display in 2008.
Judge Bennett ruled that the decision of the Maryland State Police to order the pro-life demonstrators to leave Harford County violated their First Amendment rights and that the police violated the Fourth Amendment when they arrested the pro-lifers for their failure to obey an unlawful order.
Passing motorists had complained about the nature of the signs.
The plaintiffs’ First and Fourth Amendment claims against the troopers will proceed to a jury trial for the assessment of damages only. The plaintiffs will go to trial on their claim that the police violated the First Amendment when they arrested pro-lifers for exercising their First Amendment right to call for an end to legalized abortion.
In a July 13 decision, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley blocked enforcement of a New York City law aimed at pregnancy care centers. Local Law 17, which had been set to take effect July 14, would have required pregnancy centers to post signs with mandatory language such as whether they provide referrals for abortion, emergency contraception and prenatal care.
Judge Pauley’s ruling came on the heels of a January decision by U.S. District Court Judge Marvin J. Garbis who ruled in Baltimore that it is unconstitutional to require pro-life pregnancy centers to post signs with language mandated by the government.
The Garbis ruling was a major victory for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which had challenged a Baltimore City law passed in 2009 requiring the posting of signs at pro-life pregnancy centers stating that they do not provide abortion and birth control.
The archdiocese argued that such signs were a violation of First Amendment rights and that the law unfairly targeted pro-life pregnancy centers while no such signs were required of pro-choice centers indicating which services they don’t provide.