TCDL sues City of Austin over ordinance regulating pregnancy resource centers (PRCs)

Austin City Hall

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Thursday, October 6, 2011

AUSTIN, TX – Today, attorneys with the Texas Center for Defense of Life (www.TCDL.org), Law of Life Project in Washington, DC (www.lawoflifeproject.org) and Alliance Defense Fund in Scottsdale, Arizona (http://www.alliancedefensefund.org) filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the City of Austin on behalf of Austin LifeCare (www.austinlifecare.com), a local pregnancy resource center (PRC), regarding an ordinance passed by the Austin City Council in April, 2010 that requires PRCs to post signs stating that they do not perform abortions or refer their clients out for abortions.

The ordinance requires Austin-based pregnancy centers to “prominently display, at the entrance of the center, two black and white signs, one in English and one in Spanish, that state as follows: ‘This center does not provide abortions or refer to abortion providers. This center does not provide or refer to providers of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved birth control drugs and medical devices.’”

The offense, punishable as a misdemeanor, carries a minimum fines of $250 (1st offense), $350 (2nd offense), and $450 (3rd offense). In sharp contrast, centers that provide abortions or refer for abortions are not required to post any sign about services they don’t offer.

Similar ordinances have been enacted and then struck down by federal judges in three other jurisdictions within the last several months, namely (in chronological order): Baltimore, MD, Montgomery County, MD, and New York City. All these ordinances, including the Austin ordinance, are sponsored by a national pro-abortion nonprofit organization, the National Abortion Rights Action League, which has decided to target PRCS throughout the nation. The Austin ordinance threatens PRC staff members with criminal citations and fines for failing to post the signs.

“The Austin ordinance is clearly unconstitutional and will eventually suffer the same fate as all the other similar ordinances passed in other jurisdictions,” said Greg Terra, TCDL President. “These ideologically motivated ordinances seek only to harass and to hinder the free services that pro-life pregnancy centers provide. This ordinance targets pregnancy centers for purely ideological reasons, simply because they are pro-life and encourage women to consider options other than abortion,” he continued.

“This is an offense to the freedom of people to help others,” said Stephen Casey, Chief Counsel for TCDL. “Women are the real ones hurt here, simply because of abortion-minded politicians. Our client’s rights to offer free services and to speak freely about alternatives to abortion are protected under the United States and Texas Constitutions. We’re asking the court to recognize this and also to stop the city from enforcing the ordinance while the case is being litigated.

The Texas Center for Defense of Life is a non-profit 501c3 (status pending) was formed to provide legal representation and support to pro-life organizations and individuals in Texas, and to aggressively defend the sanctity of innocent human life in state and federal courts.

For media questions, please contact the TCDL office at (512) 763-9068 or e-mail Greg Terra (greg@tcdl.org) or Stephen Casey (stephen@tcdl.org) directly.

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