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Baltimore attorneys asks Supreme Court to review Baltimore law requiring clinics to say they don't offer abortions

Attorneys for Baltimore hope a pending U.S. Supreme Court case will help the city’s fight to preserve an ordinance require some pregnancy clinics to post signs saying that they don’t offer abortions.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that a Baltimore ordinance that required this disclosure at all crisis pregnancy centers violated the religious freedom of a center affiliated with the Roman Catholic church that helps pregnant women, but is opposed to referring them for abortions or getting birth control.

The city contends that these clinics use vague advertising to draw women in and make them believe they can get an abortion. When they arrive, staff try to talk them out of it, city officials said.

The Supreme Court is now reviewing a similar case in California: the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, which was heard earlier this week.

Suzanne Sangree, an attorney for the city, said officials hope that case will help their cause.

The city filed a petition asking the nation’s highest court to review its case as well as the California case. If the court declines this request, city officials hope a decision in favor of California’s law could help Baltimore reinstate its ordinance.

“We want the court to be aware of our case and the factual record in our case,” Sangree said.

Baltimore’s ordinance was introduced by former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake when she was President of the Baltimore City Council and became the first in the nation to require pregnancy centers to disclose that they don’t offer or refer abortions or birth control.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is also a part of the case filed by Baltimore attorneys.

The center said it has fought alongside Baltimore officials since June 2010 to defend the city ordinance against a lawsuit filed by the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns. A federal district court blocked enforcement of the ordinance in 2016, a decision recently upheld by the 4th Circuit.

The Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns could not be reached for comment.

amcdaniels@baltsun.com

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UPDATES:

5:30 p.m. Monday: This story was updated to reflect the fact that attorneys for the City of Baltimore appealed the 4th U.S. Circuit Court’s decision, supported by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

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