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If anti-abortion centers want to lure those wanting abortions, they may do so

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Bill of Rights. (From the public domain.)

Everyone supports free expression that they agree with. However, if we want our own speech rights protected, we must support robust free expression rights for all, even for expression that makes us heave, hurl, and heave some more.

Much speech is deceptive. I remember being more than irritated bothering to show up at a law school afternoon “happy hour” only to learn that there was ice cream and no beer. If the organizers wanted to make a point that alcohol was not needed for happiness, they could have said so in the announcement flyers.

For years, pro-life/anti-choice (choose  your description) groups have operated pregnancy centers, making no effort to tell women seeking abortion counseling that visitors would instead be urged to carry their pregnancy to term and take the adoption option if needed. I oppose laws penalizing abortions, while wishing more women would choose the option of not aborting. However, if they want an abortion, that is their choice, and they need no deceptive luring to anti-abortion centers.

The government has no right to tell a pregnancy center that they must post a sign that they assist neither with abortions nor birth controls. Imagine if the government had told Edward Hopper to place an American flag in the background of his paintings, or Joseph Kosuth to post a “Buy America” sign on his on-point “3 Chairs” exhibit. Clearly that would be a First Amendment violation. So is any law requiring “pregnancy centers” to post that they do not help with abortions or birth control

Yesterday, the Maryland Daily Record interviewed me on just such a proposed law — in Charm City/Baltimore — involving anti-choice “pregnancy centers”. (Unfortunately, the article is only available to subscribers.) The Daily Record (partially mis-)quoted me as follows:

University of Maryland School of Law professor Mark Graber … compared Baltimore’s bill to the requirement that tobacco companies put health warnings on cigarette packages.


For Silver Spring solo practitioner Jon Katz, those cigarette warnings go too far, and Baltimore’s bill does too.

“I do believe that the language of the First Amendment is clear enough, both that government should be taking a very hands-off approach on speech and also about requiring people to speak,” he said.

Pregnancy resource centers can cause problems for women seeking abortion or birth control, but “the First Amendment means nothing if we don’t have reprehensible speech [I believe I said “protect reprehensible speech],” Katz added.

The best response to the centers would be to spread the word via the Internet, the media and even pickets that the centers are “fraudulent,” he said.

As to the foregoing Baltimore bill, let the Bill of Rights take precedence.