By Jay Hobbs
Somebody needs to get Ilyse Hogue some facts about California’s Reproductive FACT Act, and quick.
In her appearance on Tuesday night’s “The Kelly File” on FoxNews, NARAL’s national boss squared off against Lila Rose, president of Live Action, to debate the merits of the so-called “Reproductive FACT Act,” an edict ratified by California Gov. Jerry Brown back on Oct. 9.
The new law, which is already being challenged in court, specifically forces the 150-plus pro-life non-profit pregnancy help locations in the state to post signage and distribute disclaimers connecting clients to state-funded abortions.
Ironically enough, even as Ms. Hogue’s organization was a chief sponsor of Assembly Bill 775—a law its authors said was necessary to combat what they called “misinformation” from life-affirming nonprofit groups—she showed up to yet another public venue armed with nothing but misinformation about the new law itself.
This comes on the heels of Ms. Hogue’s tag-team effort with NARAL Pro-Choice California’s state-level director to pen an op-ed in the influential San Jose Mercury News that, while it would have been better suited for the creative writing section of a library, appeared just a day before Gov. Brown signed the law into effect.
In Tuesday night’s appearance, Ms Hogue was still beating the same drum, arguing in favor of the law that is almost certain to follow the way of its predecessors in New York City, Austin (TX), Baltimore (MD) and Montgomery County (MD) and be struck down in court, costing California’s taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way.
The law will force more than 150 local pregnancy help non-profits, including the 74 state-licensed free ultrasound facilities, to give each of its clients the following disclaimer, which includes the phone number of a county social services office where a client could obtain an abortion covered by Medi-Cal.
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 of the entities—even those 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.”
Those facts notwithstanding, it only took Ms. Hogue her portion of a 4-minute appearance on air to spin a trio of yarns in defense of a law that singles out and forces pro-life pregnancy help centers and medical clinics to essentially refer and advertise for state-sponsored abortions.
1. No, Ms. Hogue, this law isn’t about “information,” it’s about endorsement.
As the name of the law indicates, the strategic intent of the Reproductive FACT Act is to back pro-life opponents to the bill into a corner by forcing them to argue against the self-evident truth that a person with more information is more likely to make better choices. After all, who doesn’t want women to have more information?
Armed with a, frankly, invincible argument, Ms. Hogue tried to turn the screws on Ms. Rose during the interview: “I would ask Lila what she’s so frightened of for women to have all the information about all of their options.”
Herein lies is the issue: is the Reproductive FACT Act about mere information, or is it about endorsement? Read back through the first disclaimer above and picture it, in 22-point font, in the waiting room of pregnancy center. As a woman waits to talk through her options in the face of her unexpected pregnancy, the state of California mandates that she must see that not only is abortion an option, it is the option endorsed and made available at no charge by the state.
Beyond that, a pro-life pregnancy center must, according to the law, be about the business of advertising and referring clients to their nearest state-sponsored abortion facility, or else. Hence the phone number.
Ms. Hogue’s question denies the fact that pregnancy help organizations—including the 74 state-licensed medical clinics in California—already discuss the option of abortion with their clients. One of Heartbeat International’s top-selling resources, for example, is titled, “Talking About Abortion,” a conversation that includes information on the many serious physical and psychological dangers of abortion.
On the flip side, as both Ms. Rose and host Megyn Kelly pointed out in the exchange, the state-dictated signage represents a one-way street. No parallel disclaimer is demanded of abortion facilities, where, as Ms. Rose said, “over 90 percent of women walking into a Planned Parenthood are going to end up having an abortion.”
2. No, Ms. Hogue, not a single Republican voted for this bill.
Ms. Hogue’s op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News back on Oct. 8 alluded to what she mistakenly claimed as bipartisan support for the Reproductive FACT Act. Tuesday night, she bore in deeper to what can only be described as a bald-faced lie.
“There is a reason that a self-identified super-majority of self-identified Catholics, Republicans and Conservatives support the Reproductive FACT Act,” Ms. Hogue said. “It’s because we know that women do better when we have access to all the information about all of our options. And California should be proud that they’re leading the way on this.”
Was this legislation supported by a “super-majority of self-identified Catholics, Republicans and Conservatives”?
The simple answer is an unqualified “No.”
As we’ve said before:
As the bill made its march from the State Assembly to the State Senate, passing three committee votes along the way, not a single Republican ever voted in favor of the measure. In fact, the only cross-over vote came from Democrat Rudy Salas, Jr., a Democrat from Bakersfield.
Pro-life advocates in both houses of the legislature, as well as private citizens representing pregnancy centers and religious groups have vehemently opposed the bill as a direct assault on the rights to free speech and free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment.
In fact, the bill gave rise to impassioned pleas from pro-life politicians at every stop along the way. Assembly member Jim Patterson and Sen. Sharon Runner both cited their experience leading pregnancy help organizations as first-hand evidence for the good that pregnancy centers do every day, while Patterson blasted the legislation as “an effort to force objectionable, state-mandated speech on pro-life pregnancy care centers.”
To claim a single Republican or Conservative has ever supported this bill is an out-and-out lie. To claim a “super-majority” is a damned lie. To claim self-identified Catholics (spoiler alert: Catholics for Choice was the group) is a statistic.
3. No, Ms. Hogue, the problem with this law is exactly its infringement on free speech and free exercise of religion.
Which leads us to our final point. Ms. Hogue asserts that the law does not, in the words of Heartbeat International’s Jor-El Godsey, “trample on the First Amendment rights of locally funded grassroots organizations.”
More specifically, Ms. Hogue said the following: “It’s not about freedom of speech. It’s not about freedom to worship, however anyone chooses to worship.”
Whether or not the courts strike down the law as unconstitutional on First Amendment rights—again, following the trend of similar government-speech disclaimers struck down in other states and municipalities—Ms. Hogue is right about one thing: This has nothing to do with “freedom to worship.”
In fact, the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights did not envision the First Amendment as protecting a “freedom of worship.” The word “worship” does not appear in the First Amendment, nor in the Bill of Rights, nor in the Constitution itself.
Ms. Hogue’s straw man about the “freedom of worship” ignores the fact that the guarantee is that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” That phrase, “free exercise thereof” is far more robust than “freedom to worship,” as if the Founding Fathers were guaranteeing the right to a contemporary service with drums and an electric guitar.
The question is not whether the Reproductive FACT Act violates some imagined “freedom of worship.” It’s whether its demands on community supported pro-life nonprofits violate their rights to non-government compelled speech and the “free exercise” of their religion. Time and the courts will tell.
In the meantime, it’s past time for Ms. Hogue and the abortion industry to brush up on their facts.
Editor’s note. This appeared at Pregnancy Help News.