Twenty-two states, 144 members of Congress, and numerous organizations concerned about government-compelled speech have filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. The lawsuit is challenging a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent pregnancy center network National Institute of Family and Life Advocates and two of its centers, which filed their opening brief in the case last week.
“As the many briefs filed in this case affirm, no one should be forced to provide free advertising for the abortion industry—least of all pro-life pregnancy centers,” said ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris, who will argue the case before the high court on behalf of NIFLA and the two centers. “Government-compelled expression strikes at the very heart of constitutionally protected liberties.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a federal district judge’s decision to allow the law to remain in effect while the legal challenge to it proceeds. ADF attorneys are asking the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling, halt the law, and affirm that forcing the centers to provide the free advertising contrary to their core mission is a violation of their constitutionally protected freedoms.
California’s Reproductive FACT Act, 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 a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry. As one of the friend-of-the-court briefs notes, the law also forces unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures in multiple languages about their non-medical status in all advertisements, which obscure and crowd out their pro-life speech. Other courts have invalidated or mostly invalidated similar laws in Austin, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore; and New York City.
“Staffed predominantly by women, over two thousand pregnancy resource centers and pregnancy medical clinics across the United States offer alternatives to abortion and post-abortion counseling…,” a brief from women served by pregnancy centers explains. “Rather than supporting and promoting these ‘neighbor-helping-neighbor’ efforts, the state of California has enacted a law that purposefully targets pregnancy centers with burdensome requirements that go directly against their mission.”
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The brief filed by 22 states explains that the “Ninth Circuit erred by equating California’s law with other state laws requiring doctors to obtain informed consent from a patient before performing an abortion procedure…. California’s law requires licensed medical facilities—including those that do not perform abortions or prescribe all forms of contraception—to nevertheless notify individuals about state-subsidized contraceptives and abortion offered by other doctors and facilities. California’s law thus has nothing to do with giving a patient information to assess the risks and consequences of a procedure a doctor in a certain medical facility is about to perform.”
In addition, the brief that 144 members of Congress filed notes, “It is well-established that the First Amendment proscribes compelled speech in non-commercial contexts. This is especially true in cases like this one in which the state forces conscientious objectors to carry messages that offend the speakers’ moral convictions.”
“Our pregnancy centers were established specifically to empower women—at no charge—to choose life for their children,” said NIFLA Vice President of Legal Affairs Anne O’Connor. “The government shouldn’t force them or anyone else to advertise for something that directly contradicts the very reason we exist.”
O’Connor, John Eastman of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, and Dean R. Broyles of The National Center for Law and Policy are co-counsel in the lawsuit on behalf of NIFLA and the two pregnancy centers.