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The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to reconsider compelled speech challenges to “no abortion” posting requirements in en banc rehearing, reports Bloomberg.
In June, a three-judge panel struck down “no abortion” posting ordinances enacted by Montgomery County and the City of Baltimore, finding that officials lacked a compelling interest to enact the ordinances.
In Montgomery County, the posting requirement was a regulation that required anti-abortion pregnancy centers to make two declarations: First, they do not have licensed medical professionals on staff. Second, the county encourages women to find "a licensed health care provider," reports The Washington Post.
In Baltimore, Ordinance 09-252 imposed a similar requirement on "limited-service pregnancy centers," mandating signs disclaiming that the facilities "do not provide or make referral for abortion or birth control services."
Pro-life clinics in both areas challenged the constitutionality of the ordinances.
In the Montgomery County challenge, Centro Tepeyac, (a Catholic pregnancy center), argued that mandating the advisories violated their free speech rights. In the Baltimore lawsuit, the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, alleged that Ordinance 09-252 -- both facially and as applied to the Center -- violated free speech, free exercise, and equal protection rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the Conscience Clause of Maryland's health law.
On June 27, the Fourth Circuit issued panel decisions striking down the ordinances in each challenge. Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote both majority opinions.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing a similar anti-abortion pregnancy center posting requirement. If the two circuits ultimately issue conflicting opinions regarding the posting requirements, it could set the stage for Supreme Court review.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hold en banc rehearing on December 6.