HomeoldCensorship and Lies: Vermont Targets Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers

Censorship and Lies: Vermont Targets Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers

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A new Vermont law would require pro-life pregnancy centers and their workers to censor their activities. ADF is defending their right to provide assistance to women without unjust government interference

Since the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, numerous pregnancy resource centers have been subjected to attacks (such as ADF client CompassCare in New York) and government officials such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have disseminated false information about their motives. Such accusations are unfortunate because they ignore the genuine benefits that these centers provide on a daily basis. One example is Jean Marie Davis.

For a period of 20 years, Jean Marie was transported across 33 states in the United States. She recalls observing a fellow trafficking victim give birth on the sidewalk, yet was compelled to resume her duties for her trafficker. “I was unable to assist or take action because my trafficker would have punished me,” Jean Marie recalls.

Eventually, Jean Marie discovered that she was pregnant as well. She ultimately opted to flee from her traffickers and subsequently sought refuge at a domestic violence shelter in New Hampshire. While residing at the shelter, she was referred to a pregnancy center, which provided her with clothing, an ultrasound, and other resources. Following the viewing of her ultrasound and the receipt of assistance from the aforementioned pregnancy center, Jean Marie elected to proceed with the pregnancy and to raise her son. Following the birth of her son, the pregnancy center continued to assist her by offering a program for women and children with drug problems.

Subsequently, Jean Marie testified that her graduation from the women’s program was facilitated by the resources provided by the pregnancy resource center. She proceeded to attend Northpoint Bible College and subsequently obtained an associate degree.
Eight years after her initial visit to a pregnancy resource center, she assumed the role of director at Branches Pregnancy Resource Center in Brattleboro, Vermont. She continues to serve in this capacity, providing assistance to individuals in similar circumstances.

It is not uncommon for women to be trafficked, as evidenced by the experiences of Jean Marie and others. Pregnancy resource centers play a significant role in supporting women in need.

A recently enacted Vermont law is impinging upon the operations of pro-life pregnancy resource centers such as Branches, limiting their capacity to provide assistance to women and families confronting an unplanned pregnancy.

The aforementioned pro-life pregnancy centers are not permitted to refer or provide information about abortion services, which has the effect of placing immense restrictions on their ability to provide information, counseling, and other non-medical services.

Please read on to learn more about the efforts of Alliance Defending Freedom to advocate for the rights of these pregnancy centers to serve women and offer the support they need without fear of unjust government punishment.

What are NIFLA, Aspire Now, and Branches Pregnancy Resource Center?

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing three clients in this lawsuit: the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), Aspire Now, and Branches Pregnancy Resource Center. NIFLA is a religious nonprofit organization representing over 1,600 pro-life pregnancy centers across the nation, 1,200 of which are licensed medical clinics. ADF has previously represented NIFLA in litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that pregnancy centers cannot be compelled to disseminate information that is contrary to their mission.

NIFLA has seven member centers in Vermont, including Aspire Now and Branches. These centers offer women both medical and non-medical information and services free of charge. As a result of their pro-life stance, they do not provide or refer for abortion or abortion-causing drugs.

On May 10, 2023, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed Senate Bill No. 37 (SB 37) into law. SB 37 impedes the ability of pro-life pregnancy centers to continue providing assistance and support to Vermont women and families in two ways. First, it restricts the centers’ ability to advertise their free services. Second, it precludes centers from offering services, information, and counseling unless provided by a licensed healthcare provider.

The legislation is ambiguous and explicitly targets pro-life pregnancy centers, applying only to facilities that do not perform or refer for abortions. The legislation does not define what might constitute a violation of the law and provides no guidance as to how that standard should be applied. For instance, during a legislative hearing, one witness proposed that even naming a pregnancy center “The Women’s Center” could violate the law. This suggestion was based on the premise that a name like that is too neutral and implies that the center offers abortions.

Should a pregnancy center choose to advertise its services in a manner deemed “misleading” by Vermont’s pro-abortion attorney general, it would be subject to fines of up to $10,000 for each violation. Furthermore, should an individual who is not a state-licensed medical professional provide health information, services, or counseling, the medical doctors (M.D.s) at that facility could be fined up to $1,000, and other licensed healthcare professionals could be fined up to $5,000.

It is evident that the state of Vermont is explicitly targeting pro-life pregnancy centers, as a result of their refusal to endorse the state’s radical pro-abortion stance. This is the rationale behind the ADF’s challenge to this unjust law. Pregnancy centers should be permitted to offer free services, resources, and community support to families facing unexpected pregnancies without fear of unjust government penalties.

What’s at stake?

The Supreme Court has already ruled in NIFLA that pro-life pregnancy centers should be free to serve women without unjust government punishment or government interference with their message.

It is our understanding that these laws may inadvertently make it more challenging for women to seek out all their options and get the support they need and deserve.

Case timeline

  • In May 2023, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed Senate Bill No. 37 into law, which may have the unintended consequence of limiting the ability of pro-life pregnancy centers to provide support to women and families seeking help with an unplanned pregnancy.
  • In July 2023, the ADF filed a complaint on behalf of NIFLA and two of its Vermont pregnancy centers, Aspire Now and Branches Pregnancy Resource Center, challenging SB 37.

The bottom line

It is imperative that pregnancy centers be permitted to serve women and offer the support they require without fear of unjust government punishment.


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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