Appeals Court Upholds California Law Forcing Pregnancy Centers to Promote Abortions

State   |   Steven Ertelt, Jay Hobbs   |   Oct 14, 2016   |   12:26PM   |   Sacramento, CA

The federal appeals court that is considered the most liberal in the country has upheld an onerous California law that forces pregnancy centers to promote abortions. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is one of the most overturned appeals courts in the country because of the left-wing positions that it often takes on issues such as abortion.

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld AB 775, a California law that forces pro-life resource centers to promote abortion.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Matt Bowman told he is very concerned about the Friday’s decision in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Harris by the federal court.

“It’s bad enough if the government 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. In this case, political allies of abortionists are seeking to punish pro-life pregnancy centers, which offer real hope and help to women,” Bowman said. “Forcing these centers to promote abortion and recite the government’s preferred views is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms. That’s why other courts around the country have halted these kinds of measures and why we will be discussing the possibility of appeal with our clients.”

National Institute for Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) president Thomas Glessner bemoaned the ruling.

He told LifeNews: “It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that the liberal Ninth Circuit Court three-judge panel upheld California’s violation of federal law, the U.S. Constitution, and human rights,” said Glessner. “The ‘Reproductive FACT Act’ forces pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics to violate consciences, free speech, and religious beliefs. This violation of the foundational roots of the American Republic will not stand.”

Glessner concluded: “There are pending legal options to pursue, and we are discussing with our attorneys our most effective options. This battle is far from over.”

Opponents say the California law infringes upon the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment by forcing pro-life pregnancy help organizations to disseminate a state-sponsored message effectively referring for abortions. Named “The Reproductive FACT Act” by its authors and passed through both houses of the State Legislature on a party-line vote, the bill is the subject of multiple lawsuits.

“This bill is nothing short of a state-sponsored attack on women by the highly profitable abortion industry,” Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., president of Heartbeat International, which has 45 of its nearly 2,000 affiliates in California, said. “Women desperately need emotional support and practical resources during an unexpected pregnancy. Gov. Brown has made it more difficult for women to find the help they need to make the healthiest decision for everyone involved in an unexpected pregnancy.”

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.

“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].”

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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.”

Similar government-sponsored speech for pregnancy centers has been struck down as unconstitutional in Austin (TX), Baltimore and Montgomery County (MD) and New York City.

“We must really be hurting the abortion business if they have to come after us and have us advertise for them,” Marie Leatherby, Director of Sacramento Life Center, a state-licensed medical facility, said. “For 44 years, we have offered compassionate care to thousands of women with unplanned or unsupported pregnancies. Our patients and our community love us, and we keep our doors open because they believe in us and our mission.

“Now we are forced to fight this in the courts, as it goes against our first Amendment Right to freedom of speech and to live according to our conscience.”