CHARLESTON – West Virginia is one of 10 states weighing in on a lawsuit filed against the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns Inc.’s free speech-related lawsuit against the city of Baltimore.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey joined officials from Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Utah in filing a friend of the court brief on April 3 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in support of the center’s legal battle against the city.
Specifically, the brief outlines the state's belief that the city’s actions constitute an “attempt to undermine (the center’s) ability to speak about and offer alternatives to abortion,” according to a news release from Morrisey’s office.
The AG’s office said a Baltimore city ordinance requires facilities like the center to put up signs informing clients “that the facility does not provide or refer for abortions.”
According to the statement, Morrisey feels the city’s ordinance “uses consumer protection as cover to violate the First Amendment” by dictating what a charitable organization with “sincerely held religious beliefs about abortion” must put out as a public statement on the issue.
“I support and defend life at every stage,” Attorney General Morrisey said in the statement. “A center focused on promoting life and offering help to women in need shouldn’t be required to promote a message that directly contradicts their mission.”
The states that filed the amici curiae brief said they also want to “protect the public from deceptive advertising” and make sure the public has accurate information about health issues.
However, the states said they “also firmly believe that, under our constitutional structure, these interests cannot justify the means selected by the city in this case - coercing private religious pregnancy centers and their staff into delivering a government message that conflicts with their strongly-held beliefs.”
In addition, the states said the ordinance in question prohibits center employees and clients from openly discussing their thoughts on abortion.
Morrisey said in a Dropbox video about the brief that “you can’t compel a private entity to deliver a government message that may be reprehensible to him. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Morrisey’s office did not respond to requests for additional comment.