SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge dismissed an anti-abortion group's challenge to a San Francisco law that prohibits false advertising at anti-abortion pregnancy services clinics.
First Resort sued the City and County of San Francisco in November 2011, claiming the Pregnancy Information Disclosure and Protection Act violated its civil rights.
The ordinance was aimed at "crisis pregnancy centers" - centers that oppose abortion - which "intentionally seek to mislead women contemplating abortion into believing that their facilities offer abortion services and unbiased counseling."
The city believes that such deception is particularly harmful to indigent women facing unexpected pregnancies, U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong wrote in her Feb. 20 ruling.
First Resort advertises on Google's Adwords, a fee-based keyword service. Its pays Google so that when certain combinations of keywords, such as "San Francisco" and "abortion" or "emergency contraception" are used in Google search, First Resort's website appears as an advertisement above the search results - although First Resort offers neither abortions nor emergency contraception.
This targets "abortion-minded" women and attempts to attract them to its clinic, Judge Armstrong wrote.
First Resort claimed that the law violated its First Amendment right to free speech and its right to equal protection.
But Armstrong found that the ordinance only restricts the ability of clinics to use false or misleading advertising, which is not protected under the First Amendment.
Regarding the equal protection claim, she found that "under the Ordinance, First Resort remains free to advocate any religious or other views it desires" - the only restriction the ordinance imposes is that such clinics cannot mislead or defraud the public, which "in no way impinges on its professed right of conscience."
First Resort also sued for preemption, for which Armstrong found insufficient evidence.
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