Pro-life groups celebrate court win striking down Austin’s pregnancy-center law

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Center for Defense of Life, or TCDL, and several pro-life groups are celebrating a legal victory against the City of Austin.

On Monday, a federal judge threw out an Austin ordinance requiring pregnancy resource centers, religiously-based organizations that do not offer abortions or refer women to abortion providers, to post signs announcing they do not offer medical care.

Stephen Casey, a co-founder for TCDL, said, “I think this victory affirms that the pro-life movement is winning.”

“Today we celebrate a legal victory and battle that we never should have had to fight,” said Pam Cobern, Austin LifeCare’s executive director.

Austin City Council passed the pregnancy center law back in 2010 to create more transparency for women visiting these centers. In 2012, they went back and changed the wording in the ordinance. If pregnancy resource centers failed to put the signage up, they were subject to fines.

“The Austin ordinance was designed to criminally punish the leadership and volunteer board members of pregnancy centers for no other reason than their moral opposition to abortion,” said Cobern.

A federal judge struck down the city ordinance, saying it was too vague.

Proponents of the ordinance stand by the fact that it doesn’t violate constitutional rights, and rather creates transparency.

“What it says to us is the fight for women’s reproductive health is not over and that those facilities that receive public funds should be transparent about services they’re providing and not providing,” said councilman Mike Martinez. “Almost one year to the day Senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster over reproductive healthcare rights for women, and now we get this ruling this week.”

Martinez says the fight is not over yet, “As someone who is a strong advocate of reproductive rights for women, this is a step backwards. And I think we need to continue the fight, and I know we will.”

He says the Austin City Council will see if they can make amendments and look to pass the ordinance again.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four pregnancy centers — LifeCare, Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center and the Gabriel Project, which is run by Catholic Charities of Central Texas.

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