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No Relief for NYC Anti-Abortion Centers

WASHINGTON (CN) - Christian-run pregnancy centers failed Monday to have the Supreme Court take up their challenge to New York City disclosure rules.

The New York City Council passed Local Law 17 in March 2011 to prevent "deceptive practices," protect public health and ensure the privacy of any information the centers collect.

"Some pregnancy services centers have engaged in conduct that wrongly leads clients to believe that they have received reproductive health care and counseling from a licensed medical provider," the statute states.

At a hearing in June of that year, city lawyers said the centers go to great lengths to maintain a clinical setting.

Clerks collect personal and insurance information in the waiting room, consultations take place on examination tables with stirrups, and scrub-suited consultants give free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, city lawyer Robin Binder said at the time.

She estimated that more than 30 facilities with similar appearances and services, all without licensed medical staff, might be operating in New York City.

Since the law requires the centers to inform women that they do not have medical staff on-site, the Evergreen Association led these entities in claiming impermissibly "coerced speech."

Though U.S. District Judge William Pauley granted them an injunction, a divided three-judge panel the 2nd Circuit reversed earlier this year.

Forcing these centers to inform visitors about the availability of on-site medical staff provides "the least restrictive means to ensure that a woman is aware of whether a particular pregnancy services center has a licensed medical provider at the time that she first interacts with it," Judge Rosemary Pooler wrote for the majority.

The court did, however, strike down a requirement that the centers disclose that they do not provide abortion, emergency contraception, or prenatal care or referrals.

Likewise, the city failed to justify a notice stating that "the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene encourages women who are or who may be pregnant to consult with a licensed," the court found.

Judge Richard Wesley wrote in dissent that the law's vagueness required scrapping of the whole thing.

"It may well be that some PSCs lull pregnant women into making uninformed decisions about their health," Wesley wrote. "The city has an interest in preventing impostors from posing as healthcare workers and in making sure that misinformation is not directed at a vulnerable class of poor or uninformed women. However, the city does not have a right to sweep all those who, for faith-based reasons, think that abortion is not the right choice in with those who would defraud or intentionally mislead women making this important and personal decision."

The Evergreen Association and the Pregnancy Care Center were denied a writ of certiorari by the Supreme Court on Monday.

Per its custom the justices issued no comment on their decision.

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