Baltimore has a very sensible ordinance that requires pregnancy counseling centers to plainly state what services they provide.
The ordinance requires that a “limited-service pregnancy center” post an easily readable sign, written in English and Spanish, stating that the center does not provide or make referrals for abortion or birth-control services. A center failing to comply within 10 days of being cited could be fined up to $150 a day.
That’s perfectly reasonable, even if the center is directly opposed to abortion — they could cheerfully put up a sign bragging that they do not abort adorable little babies, and take some pride in their position. But no, that’s not what they want to do. We’ve got a ‘counseling center’ here in Morris, for instance, that provides no real help at all. They’ve got little signs around that say something like, “Pregnant? We can help!” with a phone number, and when some frightened teenaged girl calls, their sole purpose is to make sure she does not get an abortion. Stating their position up front and diminishing confusion is exactly what they don’t want — they want their clients confused and worried, susceptible to the lies they’ll tell them.
So perhaps you will be as unsurprised as I am to learn that the Catholic Diocese of Baltimore is suing the city, claiming oppression because they are asked to be clear in the range of services they will offer.
Thomas J. Schetelich, chairman of the board for the Center for Pregnancy Concerns, said that the ordinance singles out the Catholic Church for its anti-abortion stance. The nonprofit, anti-abortion organization receives donations from religious groups supporting women who plan to take their pregnancies to term and operates three of the four local centers.
“Frankly, we would expect our city government to be supporting our sacrificial efforts rather than trying to hinder,” Schetelich said. “We’re disappointed that our stand for life draws opposition.”
Please note: they are talking about four referral centers. They have hired a battery of lawyers to oppose the posting of four signs that state exactly what they regard as a positive, noble, tenet of their faith, that they do not condone abortions. What’s the gripe? If they think it’s an unfair burden to have to pay for four signs, I suspect that if they asked Planned Parenthood or other such organizations, or even asked the community at large, people would chip in to send them a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars, even, to make their own damned signs.
This is simply the Catholic Church suing for the right to keep people in the dark, as they have for so many centuries.
They have no grounds for complaint. As a NARAL director explains,
“This law empowers women by giving them full information up front about what to expect from a limited-service pregnancy center,” said Jennifer Blasdell, the organization’s executive director. “This provision does not ask a facility to provide or counsel for any services they find objectionable, but only asks them to tell the truth about the nature of their services.”
By the way, our local example of anti-abortion ignorance is called the Morris Life Care Pregnancy Center, and it is somehow affiliated with the Morris Evangelical Free Church, our local festering canker of wingnut inanity. They don’t seem to provide any material services at all, other than advice, AKA browbeating and misleading. I am amused to see that they are hosting a father-daughter chastity ball (although they don’t call them that anymore), which is rather creepy.
However, I do commend them on one thing. Right there at the bottom of their web page, they clearly and honestly state this:
“This center does not offer abortion services or abortion referrals. This information is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical advice.”
I can’t complain too much about them, then — I disagree vehemently with their opinions, but as long as they’re not pretending to be offering real medical advice and don’t pretend to offer services that they’re actually going to be telling their clients to avoid, they have every right to express their beliefs.
I hate to say this, but the Baltimore Diocese could learn something about honesty from a loony rural Protestant church that teaches that the world is only 6000 years old.