The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will consider a California law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to display information about how to obtain an abortion.
Opponents of the law welcomed the high court’s Nov. 13 decision to hear the case.
“Forcing anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry is unthinkable — especially when it’s the government doing the forcing,” said Kevin Theriot, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.
“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.”
Given that information about abortion is already widely available, “the government doesn’t need to punish pro-life centers for declining to advertise for the very act they can’t promote,” Theriot said.
“The state should protect freedom of speech and freedom from coerced speech.”
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a legal complaint filed by Alliance Defending Freedom against the law. The complaint was filed on behalf of a pro-life pregnancy care network, and two pregnancy care centers.
California’s Assembly Bill 775, called the Reproductive FACT Act, requires licensed medical centers that offer free pro-life help to pregnant women to post a notice saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraceptive services. The notice must include a phone number for a county office that would refer women to Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers.
Under the law, unlicensed pregnancy centers must also add large disclosures about their status as a non-medical provider, even if they do not provide medical services.
The petition, filed in March, charges that the legislation was enacted with the aim of targeting pro-life pregnancy centers based on their viewpoint that discourages abortion.
Alliance Defending Freedom said that courts have invalidated similar laws or parts of similar laws in Austin, Texas; Baltimore and Montgomery County, Maryland; and New York City.
The California legislature said that 200 pregnancy centers used “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices” that confuse and misinform women and intimidate them “from making fully-informed, time-sensitive decisions about critical health care.”
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law. Judge Dorothy W. Nelson, writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, said the state of California has “a substantial interest in the health of its citizens, including ensuring that its citizens have access to and adequate information about constitutionally protected medical services like abortion,” according to the New York Times.
Judge Nelson said the notice “informs the reader only of the existence of publicly funded family-planning services” and “does not contain any more speech than necessary, nor does it encourage, suggest or imply that women should use those state-funded services.”
But Elissa Graves, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, contended that the law enables the abortion industry.
“Planned Parenthood, which makes millions from abortion, deceives women into believing that abortion is their only choice,” Graves said.
“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.”