Imagine going to a shoe store — and seeing a large sign on the door announcing, "We don't sell puppies here." Or suppose you're about to board a plane, and spot a sign in the waiting area: "No train service here." You might think, what in the world?
Or imagine walking into a four-star restaurant, and seeing a sign reading: "The county government recommends that you dine somewhere else."
Now imagine these nutty signs might be required by law. Believe it or not, in Maryland, lawmakers have ordered signs like these to be posted — but only in front of one business: crisis pregnancy clinics. Signs that announce, not what the clinics offer — but what they don't offer.
Baltimore and Montgomery counties in Maryland have passed laws forcing crisis pregnancy centers to post signs announcing that they do not provide abortions, that they don't have licensed medical personnel on staff, and that the county health department recommends they seek a licensed health care provider elsewhere. Failure to post the sign gets you a $500 fine.
NARAL and Planned Parenthood are the groups behind these laws. NARAL describes the new laws as part of a new, nationwide strategy to take customers away from crisis pregnancy centers and funnel them to abortion clinics. Step one is to publish phony "studies" about how pregnancy care centers allegedly "mislead" women. The studies are, of course, conducted by NARAL. Step tw Join forces with pro-abortion lawmakers to pass laws that attack crisis pregnancy centers.
It probably won't surprise you to learn that Maryland abortion clinics don't have to post signs announcing services they don't offer. For instance, they don't have to announce that they don't have adoption lawyers on hand. They're not forced to suggest that clients go elsewhere — say, to a clinic that invites women to see their unborn babies on an ultrasound machine before making a decision.
Mark Rienzi, a law professor at Catholic University, points out the obvious to the Washington Times: The Maryland laws violate "every core principle of free speech law." And he's right.
The Baltimore City Council claims the new ordinance is about truth in advertising and patient protection. But crisis pregnancy care clinics don't claim to offer abortions: Their advertising says they offer abortion alternatives, counseling, support, and free pregnancy tests. And many of them in fact do have licensed medical personal.
If Maryland lawmakers are really concerned about truth in advertising, they should talk to some of the millions of victims of abortion clinics. Women who say abortion clinics lied to them about fetal development. Women who suffered severe injuries or even death after being told that abortion is a safe and simple procedure.
Above all, they should be forced to tell clients that up to a third of all women who abort their babies regret it afterwards.
Maryland crisis pregnancy centers are suing over the laws forcing them to advertise services that they don't offer. Good. We need to fight back when our freedoms are attacked.
Otherwise, one day we may need to post a sign in front of the Constitution. One that says "Out of service."
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.