A Baltimore City Council panel is set to take a key vote today on controversial legislation that would require pregnancy clinics that don't perform abortions or distribute birth control to post signs stating just that.
The legislation would affect four clinics in Baltimore. It has drawn attention from people on both sides of the abortion debate who think the city council bill could become a model for legislation in other cities and towns across the county.
City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake introduced the measure after meeting with abortion rights advocacy groups. These groups complained that some pregnancy clinics provide inaccurate information to women, claiming that abortions are connected to breast cancer, psychological problems and infertility.
"The bill deals with whether women are told up front what the facts are," said Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for the city council president. "Women need to know up front what to expect when they go into these centers."
Abortion opponents argue that the bill does not address those concerns, is unnecessary and unfairly targets them. The directors of two Baltimore centers testified that they already post a sign disclosing that abortions and birth control are not provided.
Likewise, Rawlings-Blake is expected to offer an amendment with a similar, sign-posting requirement for those pregnancy centers that don't provide referrals for adoptions.
Councilman James B. Kraft, who chairs the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations committee, will also try today Monday to offer an amendment that requires that clinics disclose that they don't provide information about half a dozen other related concerns, including financial support for new mothers.
Kraft said that his colleagues on the council have been getting hundreds of e-mails. "This is a very big issue that has taken a life of its own here in Baltimore," he said
If the bill is passed out of committee today, it will still need to be voted on twice by the full council before it is sent to the mayor to be signed into law.