Judge Refuses to Dismiss Case Against California Law Forcing Pregnancy Centers to Promote Abortion

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Oct 3, 2017   |   1:20PM   |   Sacramento, CA

The battle to force pro-life pregnancy centers in California to promote abortions continued Friday with a federal judge’s decision to advance their legal challenge.

Named “The Reproductive FACT Act” by its pro-abortion authors, the 2016 law is the subject of multiple lawsuits. It forces about 150 pregnancy help non-profits, including the 74 state-licensed free ultrasound facilities, to promote taxpayer-funded abortions through the state.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block the state from enforcing the law last fall, and pro-life groups recently appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the latest court decision, U.S. District Judge John Houston ruled that the lawsuit by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates should not be dismissed, Courthouse News reports.

Houston previously refused to block the law temporarily while the pregnancy centers challenge it in court. However, in his decision Friday, he said the pregnancy centers should be allowed to pursue their case.

According to the report:

On appeal again, Houston ruled on Sept. 29 that the case should not be dismissed based on the Ninth Circuit’s finding that the claims are “constitutionally and prudently ripe.”

The state argued that the claims were not ripe for review because the health centers had requested the injunction prematurely, indicating that they planned to violate the noticing requirements and would therefore be subject to the civil penalties.

Houston cited the Ninth Circuit’s finding that the pre-enforcement challenge was appropriate because the health centers made a “pledge of disobedience” not to comply with the noticing requirements and the attorney general had not indicated the act would not be enforced.

“The panel noted that pre-enforcement challenges have long been recognized, a lack of enforcement history does not compel a lack of genuine threat of imminent prosecution, and the parties face immediate and significant hardship as ‘appellants must routinely choose between holding fast to their firmly held beliefs about abortion or complying with the act,’” Houston wrote in finding the health centers have standing to pursue their claims.

This law, which was co-sponsored by the radical pro-abortion group NARAL, demands unlicensed pregnancy centers post a notice advertising abortions and abortifacients in 48 size font in each language required (up to 11 languages and 22 pages) at both the entrance to their clinic and in a visible location within the waiting area. In addition, it also must be included on their websites and in every promotional material they publish with a font size and/or color that draws more attention to it than the other words on the page.

The required notice reads: “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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Furthermore, the law charges a cumulative fine of $1,000 for every repeated instance that the notice is not communicated to a client. This law sabotages freedom of speech by forcing organizations to encourage actions that are in direct opposition to their religious beliefs and counter the mission and purpose of their organizations.

“This law is like forcing the Sierra Club to advocate for oil spills or demanding St. Jude expose their patients to lead poisoning,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, which is representing some of the pregnancy centers. “However, this law is actually much more repulsive. While those situations might cause unintended harm, abortion is intended – even specifically designed – to kill.”

Surprisingly, the law provides an exemption for clinics that already sell more expensive abortion services. They are not required to advertise this free or low-cost option. Its sponsors either believe naïvely that employees will advertise direct competition to their company’s financial gain or they wish to give greater protections for a company’s bottom line than for a person’s constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

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,” previously said Marie Leatherby, the director of Sacramento Life Center, a state-licensed medical facility. “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.”