California pregnancy help centers and medical clinics will need to wait until the state finds them in violation of its new compelled speech law to challenge it in court, a federal judge ruled Friday.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge John A. Houston marks the fourth motion for preliminary injunction to be denied since AB 775, the so-called “Reproductive FACT Act” was signed into law in October and enacted Jan. 1.
Pro-life opponents to the law have referred to the legislation as the “Bully Bill” since its inception last April, arguing that the law tilts the playing field in favor of the abortion industry.
Noting that, “public policy favors denial of the motion for preliminary injunction,” Judge Houston, a George W. Bush appointee, refused a motion brought by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represented National Institutes of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) and two community supported pregnancy centers in the San Diego area.
Carolyn Koole, executive Director of Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center—one of the two centers represented—called the decision disappointing, noting that the law’s forcing a pro-life pregnancy center to give a client a phone number where she can call to schedule an abortion is “the last thing we want to be compelled to do.”
“We want to be assured that our referral services offer the same life-affirming love, care, compassion, respect, time and education that we do, allowing our clients to make their own uninfluenced, unpressured, but informed choices,” Koole said. “There are no silent referrals… We know that we are not only referring the mother, but we are also referring a preborn child.
“What we wish those in the media and the public so greatly influenced by them would understand is that posting a sign at FPRC or providing a referral phone number on documentation from our center to another service provider is verbalizing it.”
The law will force 150 local 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 Medi-Cal.
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.
Meanwhile, pregnancy help centers that do not offer medical services will be required to post the following signage in two “clear and conspicuous” places—“in the entrance of the facility and at least one additional area where clients wait to receive services,” as well as in “any print and digital advertising materials including Internet Web sites”.
The font required is to be “in no less than 48-point type” and will read as follows:
This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.
If a pro-life pregnancy center or state-licensed pro-life pregnancy medical center is found to be in violation of the new state mandate by refusing to post the notice, the organization will be given 30 days to comply with the law, or face a $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
While the state has been mum about how it intends to enforce the law, abortion industry advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice California told New York Times’ Erick Eckholm it plans to visit centers throughout the state and push state officials to penalize pregnancy centers for refusing to post the signage.