District court Judge Lee Yeakel has tossed out an Austin city ordinance declaring it unconstitutionally vague. The ordinance would have required pregnancy resource centers to post signs about services that they did not offer. Specifically services related to medical care including abortions.
The Ausitn city council unanimously passed the ordinance in 2012. Shortly thereafter a legal battle started.
"I felt like we needed to stand up for our rights," said Pam Cobern, the executive director of Austin LifeCare.
Cobern runs a pregnancy resource center. For 30 years the non-profit has helped women with unplanned pregnancies. The center offers counseling services and sonograms, the only medical procedure offered.
"We're very excited about this victory," said Stephen Casey, an attorney and co-founder of the Texas Center for Defense of Life.
A total of four pregnancy resource centers were involved in the lawsuit. The Liberty Institute represents the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin and Catholic Charities of Texas who oversee the Gabriel Project Life Center along with the Austin Pregnancy Resource Center and the South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center.
"One thing that came out in trial was there was no need for this ordinance to be passed or the original one that replaced it. There were no grievances, no complaints, no lawsuits, nothing to justify these ordinances. They are motivated by an attack on pregnancy resource centers in my mind for ideological purposes," said Greg Terra, co-founder of TCDL.
Courts in Baltimore and New York have struck down similar ordinances. Council Member Mike Martinez sponsored the original ordinance in 2010. Another version was passed by the council in 2012. He believes the ruling is unfortunate.
"Almost one year to the date Senator Wendy Davis' filibuster on women's health rights and that's what we're fighting for today. That's what this item was about. It was about disclosing full information to women as they seek necessary healthcare," said Martinez, who is running for Mayor.
Yeakel says the centers are eligible to recover attorney’s fees which could cost taxpayers. The TCDL estimates fees for all of the attorneys involved could be a couple hundred thousand dollars.
If the city appeals the decision attorneys say they'll keep fighting.
"Whatever they do we'll react and take it as far as we need to," said Terra.