California Now Forces Pregnancy Centers to Promote Abortions, Centers May Refuse to Comply

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Dec 31, 2015   |   1:50PM   |   Sacramento, CA

Pro-life pregnancy centers in California face an uphill battle after a series of judges recently ruled that they must comply with a new state law forcing them to advertise abortion.

The radical, pro-abortion law takes effect Friday, forcing about 150 pro-life non-profits to choose between advertising abortion and facing fines of up to $1,000 if they do not comply.

In the past few weeks, three different judges ruled against pro-life organizations’ requests to temporarily stop the law from taking effect while they challenge its constitutionality in court, according to KPCC radio news.

At least one non-profit said it will not comply with the law. ICU Mobile Riverside County, better known as Go Mobile For Life, filed one of the lawsuits against the state law in December, according to a press release. Scott Scharpen, who oversees the program, said he would rather close the clinic than post the notice advertising abortion.

Attorneys for some of the other the pro-life groups could not say whether their clients would comply with the law, the radio station reports.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law in October. It forces life-affirming pregnancy centers and state-licensed medical clinics to distribute information on where and how to obtain a state-funded abortion, LifeNews previously reported. Pregnancy centers that do not offer medical services also will be required to post a sign advertising that the facility is “not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California.”

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Pro-life organizations that do not comply with the new law could face fines of $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense, according to the radio report.

Three groups of pro-life pregnancy centers have filed separate lawsuits against the pro-abortion law, saying it violates their freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the U.S. Constitution and, according to one lawsuit, the California Constitution.

The radio station reports more:

Ruling against one request last week, federal Judge Kimberly Mueller of California’s Eastern District weighed the hardships that could result from allowing the law to take effect. The judge found it in the state’s interest to ensure that California women are fully informed of their reproductive health care options.

“Though the public interest favors upholding the First Amendment, the public interest also favors ensuring California women are fully informed as to their reproductive healthcare options,” Mueller wrote. She also ruled the centers’ free speech claim was not likely to succeed in court.

“This is an existential threat to pro-life clinics,” responded attorney Kevin Snider of the Pacific Justice Institute, which represents the three crisis pregnancy centers named in the suit. “You’re taking a pro-life organization and requiring them to speak a pro-abortion message.”

The centers involved in the legal action include A Woman’s Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic in Marysville; Crisis Pregnancy Center of Northern California in Redding; and Alternatives Women’s Center in Escondido.

Three days earlier, federal Judge Jeffrey White of the state’s Northern District, also denied a request for a preliminary injunction sought by three other crisis pregnancy centers: Livingwell Medical Clinic Inc. in Grass Valley; Pregnancy Care Center of the North Coast Inc. in Eureka; and Confidence Pregnancy Center Inc. in Salinas.

Meanwhile, California Superior Court Judge John Vineyard turned down a motion last week for a preliminary injunction requested by another crisis pregnancy center, ICU Mobile in Temecula.

Jay Hobbs, writing for LifeNews, explained that pro-life opponents to the law have focused their arguments on its inherent violation of free speech protections since it was first introduced at committee in the state’s lower house in late April. The state director for the bill’s major sponsor, NARAL Pro-Choice California, told The Sacramento Bee that if the Constitution allowed them to regulate pregnancy centers’ free speech more directly, they would, Hobbs wrote.

Other cities and states also have attempted to squash pro-life pregnancy centers’ work by forcing them to advertise abortion. Fortunately, these efforts were challenged and overturned in courts.