Pregnancy Care Center of New York v. City of New York
Description: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed suit against the city of New York over a new law that threatens non-medical, pro-life pregnancy care centers with steep fines and potential closure if they don’t post signs and publish in their ads that the city health department encourages women to go elsewhere.
Settlement protects free speech of NYC pregnancy care centers
Attorney sound bite: Matt Bowman
The settlement protects the centers’ constitutionally protected freedoms that were in jeopardy because of Local Law 17, an anti-pregnancy care law that the courts mostly invalidated through the ADF lawsuit Pregnancy Care Center of New York v. City of New York. An appeals court affirmed most of a district court’s ruling that had struck down the law but reinstated one vague provision in November 2014. The settlement resolves the remaining concerns of the centers.
“New York City’s pro-life pregnancy care centers should be able to offer free help and hope to the women and children that they serve without unconstitutional interference from the government, and this settlement allows that to happen,” said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “The centers will be able to operate without being forced to post or express any messages that conflict with their pro-life beliefs or that encourage women to go elsewhere. The centers have also preserved their right to defend themselves in court again if the city discriminates against them.”
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Bill 371-A into law in March 2011 after it passed the city council. In July 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued an order that prohibited the city from enforcing its ordinance, which threatened pro-life pregnancy services centers that are not medical clinics with heavy fines and possible closure if they didn’t provide printed and oral notices crafted by the city that emphasize abortion and encourage women to go elsewhere.
The city appealed that loss, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit affirmed most of the ruling but reinstated one city requirement that the centers recite on their walls and in their ads that they lack medical licenses. The 2nd Circuit also authorized the city to use factors of unknown number and quality to determine which centers must comply.
The settlement clarifies the confusion in two ways. It acknowledges the legitimacy of pro-life centers offering women free pregnancy test kits that the women administer themselves without triggering burdensome disclosures just because of that practice. The settlement also clarifies that medical pro-life centers will not face any of the law’s penalties if they use nurses or other licensed professionals to supervise or provide specific medical services like ultrasounds. Using such professionals is already a common practice among medical pro-life centers.
In the settlement, the city acknowledges that the court struck most of the law’s provisions, and that the centers can go back to court if the city ever targets the centers again in violation of the settlement agreement.
Attorney M. Todd Parker of Moskowitz & Book, LLP, served as local counsel in the case on behalf of the pregnancy care centers.
- Pronunciation guide: Bowman (BOH’-min)
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Matt Bowman serves as senior counsel and regulatory practice team leader for Alliance Defending Freedom, where he focuses on the impact of administrative law on religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and family. From 2017 to 2020, Bowman was a senior executive service appointee in the Trump administration, serving the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as Deputy General Counsel, and then in the Office for Civil Rights. Prior to joining HHS, Bowman was an accomplished litigator at ADF for over ten years. Before joining ADF in 2006, Bowman served as a law clerk for Judges Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Michael A. Chagares, at the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and for Judge John M. Roll at the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Bowman earned his J.D. summa cum laude and was first in his class at Ave Maria School of Law in 2003. He is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia and Michigan and is admitted to practice at the U.S. Supreme Court and multiple federal appellate and district courts.