Pro-life pregnancy centers shouldn't be forced to promote abortion

California's anti-abortion pregnancy centers want the Supreme Court to overturn state notice law

California's anti-abortion pregnancy centers want the Supreme Court to overturn state notice law

Justices Leaning Against California Law? He said the state's publicly funded health care programs have struggled with publicity campaigns, leaving many pregnant women unaware of their options. Justice Elena Kagan asked if it might have been rigged in a way that would have targeted pro-life groups.

"They're really the exact flip side of the requirements in this case", said Kagan.

And Justice Steven Breyer, on a couple of occasions suggested that the court should send the case back down to the lower courts to develop a more robust record.

"This is anathema to everything we at A Woman's Choice stand for", said Tessy Trissell, executive director of A Woman's Choice in Herndon and Falls Church, and a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Great Falls.

The Supreme Court has addressed the core issues presented in this case, albeit in different factual contexts.

As his remarks illustrate, the case is about more than the free speech rights of crisis pregnancy centers.

The Justice Department, intervening in the case, opposed the first requirement but not the second.

"So if you're giving people advice about pregnancy when you are not a licensed facility, please explain to me what is both misleading, incorrect or suggestive in any way that a person has to do something like go to a doctor?"

"California has a compelling interest in informing pregnant women when they are using the medical services of a facility that has not satisfied licensing standards set by the state", Judge Nelson wrote.

'Reasonable licensing' or government interference?

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The centers are required by the law to post a notice that "California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-priced access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women".

But the impact of the law doesn't end with its intrusion into matters of morality and conscience, because the subject of abortion also implicates politics and policy.

Though the NIFLA network had petitioned the Supreme Court under both the freedom of religion and freedom of speech clauses of the First Amendment, when the court chose to take on the case back in November, it granted only the free speech challenge.

Yet the state has done just that in two ways.

Justice Ginsburg, in particular, appeared to have several ideas in mind for what such a law could say. "No one should be compelled to speak a message with which they fundamentally disagree". This can understandably confuse patients who think they have made appointments for abortions and wind up inside the centers instead.

On the other hand, Justice Kagan point out what California's law here is doing is nearly the flip side of what the Supreme Court has said states can require doctors who perform abortions to say to their clients. Violators are liable for a civil penalty of up to $500. Joshua A. Klein, a lawyer for the state, said the required disclosures provided information where and when it was most valuable.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Christian legal advocates representing NIFLA, is "confident" that a free speech win for the clinics won't cross over to other pro-life measures, since informed consent represents its own category of medical disclosures required for all surgeries and medical procedures, not just abortion.

"This is an undue burden (on free speech) in that instance, and that should suffice to invalidate the statute", Kennedy said.

"The First Amendment does not bar states", from such a "carefully neutral" notice, Klein added.

Justices across the political spectrum showed concerns over 2015 law that requires all pregnancy centers to disclose information on abortion to clients, casting doubt that it would ultimately be upheld. Unlike abortion providers, at pregnancy centers "there is nothing being done that could require informed consent". "In fact, the clinics don't make abortions and contraceptive coverage available". The Trump administration largely backed the clinics in the challenge. Licensed centers must post the abortion notice, while unlicensed facilities must inform clients that they are not authorized to practice medicine. Most of the legal research and writing was done by a talented group of Harvard Law School students working pro bono over their Christmas vacation. But local pro-lifers are also standing up for free speech in a way that affects all of us, no matter what we believe about abortion. "They can discourage women from getting abortions as vehemently as they want and in whatever manner they want". On the other side is the state of California, which enacted a law to ensure that the clinics do not mislead their patients. The federal Supreme Court recognized that in 1943 in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, when it held that forcing Jehovah's Witnesses to salute the flag and pledge allegiance violated freedom of speech: "If there is one fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein".

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