A major battle against a pro-abortion law is heading to the United States Supreme Court. The pro-life lawsuit against a California statute that requires pregnancy centers to promote abortions is heading to the nation’s highest court.
The California law, upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in October, forces pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortions. Tom Glessner, president and CEO of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, said his group was appealing the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the law violates both free speech and religious freedom.
“In essence, the law mandates that pro-life centers become abortion referral agencies, totally against their convictions, against their foundational beliefs, compelling speech,” Glessneer said previously.
Today, the Supreme Court agreed to take the case.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a federal district judge’s decision to allow the law to remain in effect while the lawsuit, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, proceeds. The Supreme Court will decide whether to reverse the ruling, halt the law, and affirm that forcing the centers to provide the free advertising contrary to their core mission is a violation of their constitutionally protected freedoms.
Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom are spearheading the effort to overturn the law.
“Forcing anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry is unthinkable—especially when it’s the government doing the forcing. This is even more true when it comes to pregnancy care centers, which exist specifically to care for women who want to have their babies,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The state should protect freedom of speech and freedom from coerced speech. Information about abortion is just about everywhere, so the government doesn’t need to punish pro-life centers for declining to advertise for the very act they can’t promote.”
He told LifeNews that California’s Reproductive FACT Act, AB 775, requires licensed medical centers that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. The disclosure must also include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and other abortionists. The law also forces unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures about their non-medical status in all advertisements, even if they provide no medical services. Other courts have invalidated or mostly invalidated similar laws in Austin, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore; and New York City.
According to the petition filed with the Supreme Court in March, “California enacted the Reproductive FACT Act with the stated purpose of targeting pro-life ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ based on their viewpoint that ‘discourage[s]’ abortion…. The Ninth Circuit candidly admits that it upheld the Act amidst a ‘circuit split’ over how to scrutinize regulations of speech by medical professionals on controversial health issues.” The petition then goes on to detail how the 9th Circuit’s ruling conflicts with other circuits and with previous decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court itself.
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“Why should the abortion industry be able to force others—even pro-life centers—to provide free abortion advertising?” said ADF Legal Counsel Elissa Graves. “Planned Parenthood, which makes millions from abortion, deceives women into believing that abortion is their only choice. Pregnancy care centers, which provide their care for free, were established specifically to help women understand that they have the choice of life for their children, and that they will be there to help them through their pregnancies.”
Named “The Reproductive FACT Act” by its pro-abortion authors and passed through both houses of the California State Legislature on a party-line vote, the law is the subject of multiple lawsuits. The law forces about 150 pregnancy help non-profits, including the 74 state-licensed free ultrasound facilities, to give each of its clients the following disclaimer, which includes the phone number of a county social services office where a client could obtain an abortion covered by taxpayer-funded Medi-Cal.
“California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number],” the disclaimer reads.
The notice, which the law specifies must either be posted as a public notice in “22-point type,” “distributed to all clients in no less than 14-point font” or distributed digitally “at the time of check-in or arrival,” applies to all of the entities—even those licensed by the state.
Since the law took effect Jan. 2016, three pregnancy centers have had the law enforced against it—all three of which were under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, who leveraged an obscure business signage law against the nonprofits to force compliance in May of 2016.
Pacific Justice Institute represents three of the affected medical clinics throughout the state in a lawsuit, while the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) represents three more.