Editor’s note. The following comes from ADF, the Alliance Defending Freedom.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to weigh in on a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy care centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. In March, ADF attorneys representing a pro-life pregnancy care center network and two independent centers asked the high court to hear the case.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a federal district judge’s decision to allow the law to remain in effect while the lawsuit, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, proceeds. The Supreme Court will decide whether to reverse the ruling, halt the law, and affirm that forcing the centers to provide the free advertising contrary to their core mission is a violation of their constitutionally protected freedoms.
“Forcing anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry is unthinkable—especially when it’s the government doing the forcing. This is even more true when it comes to pregnancy care centers, which exist specifically to care for women who want to have their babies,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The state should protect freedom of speech and freedom from coerced speech. Information about abortion is just about everywhere, so the government doesn’t need to punish pro-life centers for declining to advertise for the very act they can’t promote.”
California’s Reproductive FACT Act, AB 775, requires licensed medical centers that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. The disclosure must also include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and other abortionists. The law also forces unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures about their non-medical status in all advertisements, even if they provide no medical services. Other courts have invalidated or mostly invalidated similar laws in Austin, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore; and New York City.
According to the petition filed with the Supreme Court in March,
“California enacted the Reproductive FACT Act with the stated purpose of targeting pro-life ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ based on their viewpoint that ‘discourage[s]’ abortion…. The Ninth Circuit candidly admits that it upheld the Act amidst a ‘circuit split’ over how to scrutinize regulations of speech by medical professionals on controversial health issues.”
The petition then goes on to detail how the 9th Circuit’s ruling conflicts with other circuits and with previous decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court itself.
“Why should the abortion industry be able to force others—even pro-life centers—to provide free abortion advertising?” said ADF Legal Counsel Elissa Graves. “Planned Parenthood, which makes millions from abortion, deceives women into believing that abortion is their only choice. Pregnancy care centers, which provide their care for free, were established specifically to help women understand that they have the choice of life for their children, and that they will be there to help them through their pregnancies.”
ADF-allied attorney John Eastman of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, Anne O’Connor of NIFLA, and Dean R. Broyles of The National Center for Law and Policy are co-counsel in the lawsuit on behalf of NIFLA and the two pregnancy centers.