Is False Advertising Covered Under Free Speech? Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Baltimore Say “Yes.”

Faith-based organizations defend practice of advertising themselves as “medical clinics" without offering any medical care.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers in Baltimore advertise themselves as medical clinics without offering medical care. (Photo: Jeffrey Hamilton/Getty Images)
Aug 19, 2012· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

This week a federal appeals court decided to rehear a case challenging Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) in Baltimore. CPCs advertise themselves as “reproductive healthcare centers,” despite being faith-based organizations that don’t offer actual medical care, the Baltimore Sun reports.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), women in Baltimore seeking birth control and abortion services often mistakenly find themselves in a CPC, believing them to be medical clinics that provide contraception and abortion referrals. The CRR states that instead of offering any reproductive healthcare, CPCs―like the Center for Pregnancy Concerns― actually offer visitors anti-abortion counseling, mommy classes, and pregnancy tests. CRR contends that some go so far as to, “provide factually inaccurate information to patients and disregard patient confidentiality.”

In response to CPCs' advertising practices, the City of Baltimore passed the “Truth In Advertising” ordinance in 2010, requiring the organizations to post signs in their waiting rooms clearly stating they do not provide contraception or abortion services.

However, in June of this year, three members of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., struck down the ordinance, citing that it violated CPCs' Constitutional rights of free speech. The decision to rehear the case was filed this Wednesday, and will take place Dec. 6, before all members of that same court.

Baltimore city officials who first enacted the ordinance are encouraged by this recent decision. City Solicitor George Nilson told the Sun, "The city simply aims to prevent women who seek abortion or comprehensive contraception from being delayed in accessing these time-sensitive health services by going to a center that does not provide those services. Delay and deception creates real harm to women's health."

Do you think when CPCs advertise themselves as clinics they should be covered under free speech?