Supreme Court to decide soon whether to hear pro-life challenge to compelled pro-abortion speech

By Dave Andrusko

David Savage, a veteran reporter, “has covered the Supreme Court and legal issues for the Los Angeles Times in the Washington bureau since 1986.” While I often disagree with him, nonetheless he is well respected and has very good contacts.

Savage ran a fascinating piece that appeared this morning that is of intense interest to pregnancy help centers in particular, defenders of the First Amendment in general.

As NRL News Today readers recall, Jay Hobbs of Pregnancy Help News has written story after story tracing the judicial arc of National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, a “challenge to a 2015 California state law that forces locally funded pro-life medical clinics to advertise taxpayer-funded abortions.”

Savage writes that as early as Monday the justices could decide whether they will hear the case. “The justices have considered the appeals for more than three weeks in their weekly conferences, suggesting at least several of them are inclined to hear the cases,” he wrote.

The lawsuit is against California’s so-called Reproductive FACT Act. Ostensibly it is a law (as Savage wrote) passed because the legislature was “concerned that the more than 200 pregnancy centers in California sometimes provided ‘intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform and even intimidate women from making fully informed decisions’ about their medical care.”

That no such behavior has occurred and that this is blatantly coerced speech did not bother a panel of the frequently reversed 9th Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. “In a 3-0 ruling, the judges said the state has ample authority to regulate professional speech’ to protect the welfare of patients,” Savage explained.

Hobbs explained how elaborate and detailed are the requirements mandated under the so-called Reproductive FACT Act.

The notice, which the law specifies must either be posted as a public notice in “22-point type,” “distributed to all clients in no less than 14-point font” or distributed digitally “at the time of check-in or arrival,” applies to all pregnancy help medical clinics licensed by the state.

“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].”

Meanwhile, pregnancy help centers that do not offer medical services will be required to post the following signage in two “clear and conspicuous” places—“in the entrance of the facility and at least one additional area where clients wait to receive services,” as well as in “any print and digital advertising materials including Internet Web sites.”

The font required is to be “in no less than 48-point type” and will read as follows:

“This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.”

In his story, Savage noted that there are three separate appeals pending before the Supreme Court, including one from the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. He quotes Jay Sekulow, counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, who wrote that at issue is whether

“the state of California can compel nonprofit, faith-based, pro-life licensed medical facilities, against their religious convictions and identity, to advertise a government program that provides free or low-cost abortions.”

Sekulow, who is appealing on behalf of the LivingWell Medical Clinic and two others, said the disclosure law violates “the principle that one cannot be conscripted into acting as a ventriloquist’s dummy for a government message.”

NRL News Today has covered the attempts—almost all of which have failed—to cripple pregnancy help centers, for years. Hobbs summarized the attempts:

Past attempts by local authorities to compel pro-life pregnancy centers to post signage either declaring the services they do not offer or referring patients—even indirectly—to abortion providers have been struck down in New York City, Austin (TX), Baltimore (MD) and Montgomery County (MD), the latter of which cost taxpayers over $330,000 in attorney fees.