We contacted Rep. Cody's office yesterday to ask if this plan was public. We spoke with her Legislative Assistant, Holly Mortlock. Ms. Mortlock admitted to us that there were changes to the bill that had been drafted but not made public, but claimed that this was standard process because of the short legislative sessions. She said the committee was responding to the public's input.
The only changes she was willing to disclose was the fact that the penalty section of the bill was to be reworked. She admitted that there had been vociferous public outrage over the punishments outlined in the original bill, so devastatingly outlined in testimony before the committee by attorney John Panesko.
Panesko explained that the bill required civil suits against pregnancy centers to go straight to Superior Court, normally reserved for major criminal cases, and requiring the most expensive defense attorneys. It also awarded all attorneys costs to be paid by the pregnancy center if they lose, but not by the reverse if the center is vindicated.
It allowed for treble damages, and set grounds for guilt as being "aggrieved". It even allowed governments to bring suit, as if they were pregnancy center clients. All of these measures were essentially tailor-made as part of an open-season on the non-profit, Good Samaritans of the pro-life pregnancy care centers because they had the gall to cut into the abortion industry's abortion business by 6%, in the most recent reporting year.
Ms. Mortlock told us that Chair Cody was planning to replace this section with a mechanism of "injunctive relief". This means that an "aggrieved" party could seek an injunction by a judge, and the plaintiff would face a "burden of proof" requirement. The judge could punish the center with $1,000 fine, and an injunction, with the penalties getting worse for subsequent "infringements".
We asked Ms. Mortlock if Cody was making any changes to the "forced speech" parts of the bill which a Maryland judge found unconstitutional, and which Attorney General Rob McKenna publicly attacked as worse than the unconstitutional Baltimore legislation. She admitted that those criticisms had been heard and that changes to that area "were being discussed", but was not willing to promise any changes.
We asked if Ms. Cody and the Abortion Democrats were planning to have Mr. McKenna's office review the new language before trying to pass it in Committee. She responded as if that would be an unusual accommodation, but we countered that it seemed to make little sense to proceed with a bill when they knew the state's top legal officer considered it indefensible. Ms. Mortlock made clear that Ms. Cody could not care less about the ways in which this bill trampled on our constitutional rights.
It turns out that despite Ms. Cody's attempt to keep the new text away from the public until Thursday morning, we were able to get an early copy.
We can report that despite some changes, which are acknowledgments of the massive public opposition, analysts from the pregnancy center community tell us that the blatantly unconstitutional elements of the bill have remained the same.
The bill is being changed to remove the much ridiculed font-size regulation, replacing it with a legally meaningless "must be prominent" requirement. It changed the requirement to use the undefined "primary languages" of the CPC's county, to a state-wide list of five language, including Tagalog.
Apparently Ms. Cody thinks the women who are laying happy healthy babies in their cribs tonight thanks to the help they got from pregnancy medical clinics should be deprived that unspeakable joy unless the centers have enough Tagalog on their websites!
Despite Cody's attempts to pretend to have listened to the public's concerns, the new bill still retains the following malicious language:
Counties, cities, and other political subdivisions may be "aggrieved persons" who may seek an injunction.In other words, she wants it to be as easy as possible for anyone to go after our Good Samaritans. We didn't know a municipal government could have a medical record, Eileen. We've certainly never seen a county pee in a cup.