Supreme Court Rejects Baltimore Law Forcing Pregnancy Centers to Promote Abortions

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jun 29, 2018   |   10:29AM   |   Washington, DC

Pro-lifers have a lot to be thankful for this week in regard to decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the high court ruled against a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortions. And on Thursday, it refused to take a case regarding a similar pro-abortion ordinance in the City of Baltimore.

The AP reports the high court refused to hear Baltimore’s appeal in defense of the pro-abortion ordinance Thursday after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against it earlier this year. Basically, this means the pro-abortion law is dead.

The 2009 ordinance forced pro-life pregnancy centers to post signs in their waiting rooms notifying clients that they do not provide abortions. If pregnancy centers refused to comply, they faced daily fines of $150.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, which sued the city, praised the decision Thursday that ultimately killed the onerous law.

“The litigation took years, but we are pleased to have achieved this favorable outcome under the First Amendment and have the strong precedent established by this case and the recent (California) ruling that religious nonprofits must be free to pursue their missions without being forced to deliver the government’s preferred message,” said David Kinkopf, an attorney who represents the archdiocese and the Center for Pregnancy Concerns.

The pro-life pregnancy center in Baltimore provides free services to 1,200 women annually, according to the archdiocese.

“I am reminded of a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’” Archbishop William E. Lori added.

The California ruling is having wide-reaching effects. This week, Hartford, Connecticut city leaders also suspended a pro-abortion ordinance that targeted pro-life pregnancy centers because of the Supreme Court ruling, the Hartford Business reports.

In a 5-4 ruling Tuesday, the high court sided with California pregnancy centers in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, on the grounds of free speech violations.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the decision, commented: “[T]he people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail…. This Court’s precedents are deeply skeptical of laws that ‘distinguis[h] among different speakers, allowing speech by some but not others.’”

Abortion activists with NARAL and the Center for Reproductive Rights argue that the law is necessary because pregnancy centers “manipulate and deceive” pregnant women. However, Heartbeat International pointed out that they have not been able to produce one single testimony from a woman who was harmed by a pregnancy center.

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Retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate who sometimes sides with the abortion industry, also ruled with the majority, arguing the law discriminates against the pro-life viewpoint.

He wrote:

“It does appear that viewpoint discrimination is inherent in the design and structure of this Act. This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression. For here the State requires primarily pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions. This compels individuals to contradict their most deeply held beliefs, beliefs grounded in basic philosophical, ethical, or religious precepts, or all of these.”

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

The law requires pregnancy centers to advertise taxpayer-funded abortions, and charges a cumulative fine of $1,000 for every repeated instance that the notice is not communicated to a client. It 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, an argument that the high court agreed with.

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.

These pro-abortion laws are not about choice. They push one option on pregnant women – abortion. Pregnancy centers’ purpose is to offer life-affirming choices to pregnant moms, especially ones who think abortion may be their only option; and they provide information and support that women do not get at abortion facilities. And while the abortion industry makes millions selling the “choice” of abortion, pro-life pregnancy centers lose money providing free services to pregnant and parenting moms.