In The Public Arena

Austin Pregnancy Resource Center


Summary

The City of Austin, Texas paid $480,000 in an attorney fee settlement on August 26, 2015 after unfairly targeting four pro-life Christian pregnancy resource centers. Liberty Institute’s legal representation of the targeted centers led to a 2014 Court ruling that declared the City’s ordinance unconstitutional. With the attorneys’ fees settlement, the case is officially closed—and a firm warning sent to any other governments inclined to similarly violate religious liberty rights in the future.

The attorney fee payment distributed to the attorneys for the four pregnancy resource centers included Liberty Institute and its co-counsel, Bowman & Brooke, LLP, and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Raul Gonzalez.

Jeff Mateer, General Counsel of Liberty Institutute said, "This attorney fee settlement sends a clear message to NARAL and governments everywhere: respect the rights of faith-based pregnancy resource centers. If you violate a non-profit’s rights, you will pay a steep price.” 

"This attorney fee settlement sends a clear message to NARAL and governments everywhere: respect the rights of faith-based pregnancy resource centers. If you violate a non-profit’s rights, you will pay a steep price."

 

Background: Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin et al v. City of Austin

The case began on Good Friday in April 2010, when the City of Austin passed an ordinance that targeted pro-life, Christian pregnancy resource centers that oppose abortion and certain forms of birth control. The ordinance compelled the resource centers to post a false and misleading sign at their front entrances stating services they do not provide. Facilities (like Planned Parenthood), however, that provided abortions, however, were not required to post any signs or disclaimers referencing their services or procedures. 

In October of 2011, Liberty Institute representing three of the pregnancy resource centers: The Gabriel Project Life Center (run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin and Catholic Charities of Central Texas), the Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, and the South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center, filed a federal lawsuit seeking to invalidate the ordinance. A separate counsel represented the fourth center.

In January of 2012, facing legal action on the original ordinance, the City recognized that their original ordinance was unconstitutional, and repealed it. However, the City enacted new ordinance that still compelled pregnancy resource centers to post misleading, government-dictated messages concerning their licensing and services that they do not provide. Faith-based pregnancy resource centers that did not post signs would face criminal penalties. 

Current Status

More than five years after the first ordinance was passed, all unconstitutional mandates against faith-based pregnancy resource centers in Austin have been repealed or invalidated. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that Austin’s ordinance was unconstitutional, and the City of Austin has paid a painful price for their religious discrimination. 

Impact

Such ordinances are not limited to the Texas state capital. Pro-Abortion groups such as the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) have implemented an aggressive strategy to establish these types of ordinances in cities across America—but as in the Austin case, they have been failing nationwide. 

Now Austin, Texas can be added to the list of cases that will set an impactful precedent in future controversies—a precedent that says the exclusive targeting or discrimination of faith-based pregnancy resource centers will not be tolerated.

Legal Documents

Press Release - 09.03.2015

Check paid by City of Austin - 08.26.2015

Court's Final Judgment

 

 

 

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