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Appeals court rehears Md. pregnancy center cases

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm •  Published: December 6, 2012

"It seems to have an ideological overtone of 'You're not really going to find help here,'" Wilkinson said.

In the other case, Judge Dennis Shedd asked Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns attorney David Kinkopf why he would fight an ordinance that simply requires his client to tell the truth — that it doesn't provide abortions or contraception.

"Isn't that a little bit odd? I would think you might be proud of that," Shedd said.

Kinkopf said the center has a right to share the information in its own way, not by a method forced on it by the government.

He also said that if the government wants women to know the center doesn't offer certain services, it clearly has the right to do that through its own advertising and public outreach. If the government believes the center is deceiving people, he said, the proper remedy is enforcement of fraud and false advertising laws.

Some of the judges also raised the issue of whether the governments should simply spread the message through their own websites and other means rather than force the centers to carry it for them.

Suzanne Sangree, an attorney for the city, said the government is simply trying to prevent women from being deceived about the services they will receive.

She seemed to have an ally in Judge Robert King, who dissented in the panel ruling.

"Public health is a special situation," he said. "We're talking about the health of women — young women who are in many cases in a vulnerable situation."

However, Wilkinson said he was troubled that the law only targets anti-abortion centers, thus raising the question of viewpoint discrimination.

"Are they engaging in any sort of medical practice or doing anything that poses a risk?" Wilkinson asked. "If you can't point to some harmful procedure, doesn't that go a little too far?"

Kinkopf said the center does not engage in medical practice, and that heath issues deserve "full and open debate without the government imposing its view."