California violated federal laws to push a pro-abortion agenda on pro-life pregnancy centers, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Friday.
The HHS Office for Civil Rights found that the state violated two federal conscience protection laws, the Weldon and Coats-Snowe amendments, when it tried to force pregnancy centers to advertise abortions.
The finding comes after the U.S. Supreme Court also blocked California from enforcing the pro-abortion law in June.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court blocked California’s blatant discrimination against non-profits that give life-affirming options to women facing unplanned pregnancies,” said Roger Severino, director of OCR. “Our violation finding underscores not only that California must follow the Constitution, but that it also must respect federal conscience protection laws when it accepts federal funds.”
The Weldon and Coats-Snowe Amendments protect various pro-life health care groups by prohibiting state and local governments from discriminating against them because they do not perform or recommend abortions.
According to the HHS investigation, the state violated the amendments by subjecting “licensed covered facilities” to this form of discrimination. It called the law “burdensome and unnecessary.”
The San Francisco Gate reports the HHS finding does not really do anything because the U.S. Supreme Court already blocked the law. However, it does allow for future enforcement action by HHS if California violates the Supreme Court’s ruling.
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The California Reproductive FACT Act forced pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise free, taxpayer-funded abortions in violation of their beliefs. If they did not, they faced huge fins of $1,000 for every repeated instance that the notice is not communicated to a client.
Abortion activists with NARAL and the Center for Reproductive Rights argued that the law is necessary because pregnancy resource centers “manipulate and deceive” pregnant women. But Heartbeat International pointed out that 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).
In June, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for the 5-4 majority, saying the California law “likely violates the First Amendment.”
“[T]he people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail….” Thomas wrote. “This Court’s precedents are deeply skeptical of laws that ‘distinguis[h] among different speakers, allowing speech by some but not others.’”
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch joined. The four abortion advocates, Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan ruled that pregnancy centers can be forced to promote abortions.
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.