June 27, 2018

Hartford suspends ordinance following Supreme Court abortion services ruling

HBJ File Photo
HBJ File Photo

Hartford has suspended its ordinance aimed at preventing faith-based pregnancy centers from misleading patients about abortion services, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

In a 5-4 ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Courtblocked enforcement of a California law, enacted in 2015, that requires "crisis pregnancy centers" to inform clients about abortion options offered by the state.

Such a requirement is likely unconstitutional, justices said, because it compels speech in violation of the First Amendment. Supporters of California's law argued that it prevents faith-based pregnancy centers from misleading women about their options.

Hartford city councilors passed an ordinance last year, which was set to kick in July 1, that forbade centers from using false, misleading or deceptive advertising practices regarding pregnancy services, and requiring them to disclose if their staff possess medical licenses. The ordinance included potential fines of $100 a day for violations.

The city said it is reviewing whether the Supreme Court decision affects its own ordinance, which is somewhat different.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin on Tuesday slammed the Supreme Court ruling, referencing a local crisis pregnancy center in Hartford that admitted to lurring women away from a reproductive health center.

"Women should be told the truth when they are making healthcare decisions, and it's very disappointing that the Supreme Court has defended deception instead of transparency," Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said in a statement.

Other state Democratic leaders, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, echoed Bronin's displeasure, questioning why the nation's highest federal court would side with those "who deny women information regarding her health…"

"Rather than requiring those posing as healthcare providers to offer accurate and unbiased information, it creates the conditions for misleading and manipulating women seeking medical care," Malloy said. "This erosion of a woman's fundamental right is an affront to what we stand for as a nation."

On Wednesday, Malloy urged the state's General Assembly to adopt legislation during next year's legislative session that ensures women seeking pregnancy counseling receive adequate information about available services.

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