California Pregnancy Centers Ask Court to Stop Law Forcing Them to Promote Abortion

State   |   Alliance Defending Freedom   |   Jun 13, 2016   |   4:02PM   |   Sacramento, CA

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Matt Bowman is today participating in oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in favor of halting a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion.

A district judge declined to issue a preliminary injunction to halt the law while the lawsuit, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Harris, proceeds. ADF attorneys representing a pro-life pregnancy care center network and two pro-life pregnancy care centers appealed that decision to the 9th Circuit.

“It’s bad enough if the government engages in censorship and tells you what you can’t say, but a law that tells you what you must say—under threat of severe punishment—is even more unjust and dangerous,” said Bowman. “In this case, political allies of the abortion industry are seeking to punish pro-life pregnancy centers, which offer real help and hope to women. Forcing them to promote abortion and recite the government’s messages is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms. That’s why we are asking the 9th Circuit to reverse the district court’s decision. Other courts around the country have halted these kinds of measures because they have found them to be unconstitutional.”

The state law, 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 these services, and it 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 Texas, Maryland, and New York.

According to the ADF brief filed with the 9th Circuit in March, “The State admits, and the District Court found, that the Act was passed with the stated ‘Purpose’ of targeting pro-life ‘crisis pregnancy centers,’ because they ‘aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions,’ and they (allegedly) ‘misinform’ women…. This is an explicitly viewpoint-discriminatory purpose—disagreeing with pro-life speech and information—being used to force citizens to speak the State’s own message…. The legislative history contains no evidence that Plaintiff centers actually ‘misinform’ women, and the Act does not require that a center be providing incorrect information before its required disclosures apply…. Plaintiff-Appellants respectfully request that this Court reverse the judgment of the District Court and remand with instructions to enter the requested preliminary injunction.”



ADF-allied attorney Dean R. Broyles of The National Center for Law and Policy is co-counsel in the lawsuit on behalf of NIFLA and the two pregnancy centers.