The Day – New London pro-life pregnancy center says new state law violates First Amendment rights

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New London – More than 600 women walk through the red front door of a white house on Montauk Avenue each year, facing unwanted pregnancies and seeking help.

Inside, they find medical providers who offer pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, support services like Bible study groups and adoption referrals, and donations of everything from cribs to diapers. But what they won’t find is the option of having an abortion, taking an emergency contraceptive, or being referred to a place that offers one or the other.

Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center in Southeast Connecticut, New London’s private pro-life center in 492 Montauk Avenue., filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the new state law that she says is unconstitutional.

Through the Conservative Advocacy Group Alliance defending freedom, Care Net argues that the law violates First Amendment rights. The law, which came into effect in July, stipulates that any place considered a “limited service pregnancy center” – that is, a pregnancy center that does not directly provide abortion or pregnancy services. emergency contraception, or referrals for either – cannot make or disseminate information which they can reasonably assume is misleading.

The law states that if these types of centers publish or provide misleading information about people’s health care options, they can face fines or even legal action. If a service desk is found to be disseminating misleading information through advertisements, online documents, or internal documents, it may also be required to publish new factual information at its own expense.

Care Net is concerned, according to its attorney Kevin Theriot, lead attorney for ADF, that this law prohibits the center from communicating freely with its clients, defending pro-life religious beliefs and fully and freely practicing one’s religion.

The ADF is asking the court to block the law and declare it a violation of constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion, due process and equal protection. The ADF said it seeks to protect Care Net’s right to “exercise and talk about religious beliefs so that it can help women concerned about pregnancy and motherhood.”

The measure was passed earlier this year after extensive and emotional debate, with lawmakers voting primarily party-based – Democrats argued that service centers should not be able to mislead or deceive potential patients. They argued that women facing unwanted pregnancies deserve to know all of their options.

Care Net, which is a private, faith-based company, provides free support, limited medical services and referrals to people facing unintended pregnancies and helps more than 600 people a year in New London County, according to Director Lisa Maloney.

But on his website, Care Net makes it clear on every landing page that it “does not provide or refer to service interruptions or emergency contraception.”

“On every page we have the disclaimer that we do not provide or reference for abortions, so we are very clear about this before we even send an email or text message,” Maloney said.

The center has a drop-down tab for “abortion info” which leads to links to information on the different types of termination of pregnancy. The “Abortion Info” page has a button to make an appointment, but that appointment will not offer any abortion services or referrals.

The centre’s website previously had a message saying ‘pregnant and need help? But Theriot said he was removed for fear of retaliation under the new law.

Theriot said the law creates a “chilling effect” and it is not known what Care Net is and is not allowed to say.

“It unfairly targets limited service pregnancy centers and it does it in such vague language that it is difficult to know what is prohibited because you can break the law by omitting the language,” he said. . “You have to be careful of what you say and what you don’t say.

The ADF argues that the law targets the discourse of only pro-life faith-based centers and is “an attempt to control faith-based voices.”

State Attorney General William Tong said on Wednesday he was ready to take a stand to continue to support the law and women’s rights to factual information about health care options.

“Women need accurate and timely information about their reproductive health choices,” Tong said. “It is indefensible to lie to women at a vulnerable time. I have testified in favor of the Connecticut law and am fully prepared to defend it in court.

According to the lawsuit, ADF argues that “because Care Net believes that every human being is made in the image of God and has precious value at every stage of life, Care Net cannot refer or provide abortions or medication. abortive without violating religious beliefs. “

They also said in the lawsuit that the law violates their religious beliefs about truthfulness and their ability to communicate their beliefs, and that being forced to give corrective speech “will have moral and spiritual implications.”

“Pregnancy centers should be free to serve women and offer the services they need without fear of unfair punishment,” said Theriot, who said he believed the law was unfairly targeting one. type of service center. “It’s just not a two-way street, and tolerance is usually a two-way street, or it could be.”

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