A long, difficult legal battle to protect pro-life pregnancy centers from being forced to advertise abortions is over in California.
Alliance Defending Freedom President, CEO and General Counsel Michael Farris celebrated the final step in a statement.
“California disregarded that truth when it passed its law forcing pro-life centers to advertise for the abortion industry,” Farris said. “The district court’s order puts a permanent end to that law in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June, which rightly found that ‘the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.’”
The case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, challenged a 2015 California law that forced about 200 pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortions. It fined pregnancy centers $1,000 every time they did not advertise abortions to a client.
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In June, the nation’s highest court ruled against the law, saying it “likely violates the First Amendment.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing the opinion for the 5-4 majority, said, “[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.’”
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates also celebrated the relief that the permanent injunction provides to pregnancy centers.
“NIFLA v. Becerra is not just about whether or not to hand out abortion information on a piece of paper or post it on the walls of pro-life centers,” said NIFLA Vice President Anne O’Connor, co-counsel in the lawsuit. “It is about the right belonging to all American citizens to be free from government-compelled speech, and from being coerced into promoting a message that contradicts their values.”
Abortion activists with NARAL and the Center for Reproductive Rights argued that the law is necessary because pregnancy centers “manipulate and deceive” pregnant women. But Heartbeat International, which runs pregnancy centers across America, pointed out that pro-abortion groups were not able produce one single testimony from a woman who has been harmed by a pregnancy center
The notice that pro-life centers were required to post 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].”
Courts also have struck down similar government-sponsored speech for pregnancy centers in Austin, Texas, Baltimore and Montgomery County, Maryland, and New York City. Soon after the June ruling, the Supreme Court refused to take a case regarding a similar pro-abortion ordinance in the City of Baltimore – another victory for free speech and pro-life advocates.