New Pregnancy Center Regulation in Montgomery County Unfairly Targets Support for Women

February 02, 2010

Today, the Montgomery County Council, acting as the County Board of Health, passed a regulation that unfairly targets pregnancy resource centers which provide a valuable safety net of material support and referrals, but not medical care, for pregnant women in need.

“This regulation is unnecessary. The fact is local pregnancy resource centers provide indispensible and compassionate practical support for women. They are an important resource. No complaints have been filed with the county against these centers and no documentation has been provided indicating a need for a new regulation. Rather, this is part of a national effort to undermine the centers’ good work solely because of their beliefs,” said Christa Lopiccolo, director of life issues for the Archdiocese of Washington.

The regulation is similar to a bill that was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly in 2008 and defeated in committee. The Virginia House and Senate subcommittees also defeated similar legislation last week.

Pregnancy resource centers provide women with free services, including pregnancy tests, parenting classes, maternity and baby clothes and assistance connecting the women with resources to ensure healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.

The regulation requires pregnancy centers that do not have a medical professional on staff to post a disclaimer stating this and that pregnant women should see a doctor. In practice, the regulation applies only to centers with a pro-life mission, all of which already encourage pregnant women to receive prenatal care, making the regulation unwarranted and unfair. The regulation does not apply to other situations where pregnant women may seek assistance, such as county social workers, high school guidance counselors or teachers.

The archdiocese and many of its parishes provide material and volunteer support to the four pregnancy centers located in Montgomery County; only one of the centers provides medical services.

As Lopiccolo noted, “Far too often, women who are pregnant don’t know where to turn or what resources are available to help them carry their babies to term. These centers provide critical support to women and their children at a vulnerable time.”

In January, the Catholic bishops serving Maryland addressed these legislative and regulatory efforts aimed at pregnancy resource centers in the statement, Set Out in Haste: Serving Women, Serving Life, noting they “…are particularly abhorrent because they mandate compelled speech only for those centers that are pro-life and only because they are pro-life, in complete disregard of the respected and valuable assistance pregnant women receive from them. The message these proposals send is disturbing: Failure to provide abortion or contraception, even when based on deeply-held moral beliefs, is an activity that merits regulation and, if necessary, punishment.” (The full statement is online at www.mdcathcon.org.)

Contact:
Susan Gibbs
Director of Communications
301-853-4517
[email protected]