Supreme Court Will Decide if California Can Force Pregnancy Centers to Promote Abortion

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 19, 2018   |   10:13AM   |   Washington, DC

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear another vitally important case to the pro-life movement on Tuesday.

At risk are the freedoms of speech and conscience of pregnancy resource centers, which provide free, life-affirming information and support to pregnant and parenting mothers.

The case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, challenges a 2015 California law that forces pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortions. Oral arguments will be heard Tuesday.

Thomas Glessner, president of National Institutes of Family and Life Advocates, told the McClatchy News Service the law forces about 200 pregnancy centers in California to be “abortion referral agencies.”

Abortion activists with NARAL and the Center for Reproductive Rights argue that the law is necessary because pregnancy centers “manipulate and deceive” pregnant women. But Jay Hobbs of Heartbeat International pointed out these pro-abortion groups have not produced one single testimony from a woman who has been harmed by a pregnancy center (other than a few abortion activists who were trying to trap pregnancy centers).

“Why should the abortion industry be able to force others—even pro-life centers—to provide free abortion advertising?” said Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Elissa Graves, previously. “Planned Parenthood, which makes millions from abortion, deceives women into believing that abortion is their only choice. Pregnancy care centers, which provide their care for free, were established specifically to help women understand that they have the choice of life for their children, and that they will be there to help them through their pregnancies.”

Bloomberg reports more on the case:

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says that reasoning [in Planned Parenthood v. Casey] should lead the court to uphold the state’s disclosure requirements. The Pennsylvania law upheld in Casey required doctors to provide “state-prepared publications containing extensive state messages,” he said in court papers.

The California measure, by contrast, “requires only a two-sentence notice that services are available to eligible women through public programs and that a county office can provide more information if it is desired,” Becerra wrote.

The centers and their supporters say the California law is fundamentally different from the type of informed-consent requirements upheld in Casey.

California’s law “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,” a Texas-led group of more than 20 states said in court papers.

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].”

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.

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

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 in October. The Supreme Court will decide whether 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.