Attorneys for a pro-life pregnancy center resource group are optimistic following Tuesday’s oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court, in the case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra.
In the pouring rain, the attorneys spoke to a crowd of supporters outside of the court, and said that they were pleased with the day’s events and remained hopeful that a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to provide information about free or low-cost abortions would be struck down.
“We hit a home run today in the court,” said NIFLA President Thomas Glessner. “In fact, [Alliance Defending Freedom CEO] Michael Farris hit a grand slam home run.”
Glessner added that he was “very optimistic” that the court would rule against California.
According to Farris, the Supreme Court justices were especially concerned about the provision in the law that mandated unlicensed, non-medical pregnancy centers to post a lengthy disclaimer in 13 languages on its advertisements.
“If you have just an ad that says ‘life counts’ with the name of your facility and a phone number, then you have to — in the same size as the ad itself, the main words — put a 29-word disclaimer in multiple languages. That crowds out the message,” said Farris.
“They’re not trying to inform anyone about anything, they’re trying to delude a message so that nobody ever comes to one of these facilities.”
According to Farris, multiple justices — including members of the court’s more liberal wing — were concerned that that this law was too far-reaching.
Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of ADF, agreed with Farris, and added that the government’s “last resort” should be to compel speech. Waggoner said she was hopeful that the court would agree that no one should be forced to promote something that violates their beliefs.
“We are hopeful, based on the comments of the court today, that they recognize that important principle. And we are hopeful that they will rule on the behalf of life.”
The attorneys told the crowd that they presented their argument to the court as one primarily based on free speech, not necessarily about abortion.
The First Amendment applies to all, NIFLA Vice President of Legal Affairs Anne O’Connor said, and the specific targeting of pro-life pregnancy centers by the Reproductive FACT Act should be troubling for everyone, regardless of political beliefs or feelings about abortion.
“Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice or whatever on the line, we should all be concerned about when a government can compel anybody to say something that violates what they believe,” said O’Connor.
Her sentiment was echoed by Josh McClure, the executive director of a California pregnancy clinic.
“No American should be forced to preach a message or speak a message that they don’t agree with. That’s the basis of why we’re here,” said McClure.
O’Connor also said that while the justices posed “challenging” questions, she believed that at least eight would rule in favor of NIFLA.
“But 9-0 is what we’re praying for.”
Pro-life advocates braved the freezing temperatures and rain to show their support for pregnancy centers.
Kelly Picardi, a non-denominational Christian, told CNA that she and her husband are in the process of adopting a child conceived in rape, due to be born next month.
“The conception of our daughter’s life came about through a difficult and unfortunate situation, but the decision of the birth mom not only choose life but to choose adoption is the most respectable thing I can think of,” Picardi says.
“That kind of decision is our inspiration, and an example to [my family] of what love looks like. Even though she’s had a really hard life, [the birth mother] is still making the kind of decision that will benefit someone else. That example of love is what we’ll live by every day.”
Picardi says she hopes that her family’s decision to adopt can serve as an example for others, ultimately helping to normalize the practice of adoption in society. “As hard as the adoption journey is, it’s really been affirmed by the people in our community,” she said. “Good can always come from broken situations.”
Rosemary Geraghty, a new media coordinator for Rehumanize International, said her beliefs as a self-identified feminist put her at odds with the pro-choice side of the argument.
“It’s hard for me to understand why someone who would call themselves pro-choice would be against the groups that give women more options than just abortion,” she told CNA. “To attack these pregnancy centers that are giving direct aid and resources to low-income women and pregnant people...it’s just anti-’pro-life people.’ It’s viewpoint discrimination.”
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, stressed the important work that pregnancy care centers offer to serve women in need.
“The bottom line is that abortion hurts women; it doesn’t do a service for women, and these centers can provide women what they need in a very stressful moment,” she said. “Things like diapers, but also more complex things like housing, education...these things are critically important.”
Jonah McKeown contributed to this report.