Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represents the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates pregnancy centers, announced this week that the Supreme Court will take up the case which pits pro-life centers against pro-abortion state lawmakers who are attempting to force these establishments to promote and advertise abortion in violation of their core mission.
According the Catholic News Agency, California Assembly Bill 775, called the Reproductive FACT Act, requires licensed medical centers that offer pro-life help to pregnant women to post notices saying that the state provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. These notices must include a phone number for a county office that would refer women to Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers.
Violators of the controversial law would be required to pay a fine of $500 for the first violation and $1000 for each subsequent violation.
Proponents of the law claim that the state’s pregnancy centers use “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, ruling that 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.”
The ADF responded by filing a petition charging that the legislation was enacted with the aim of targeting pro-life pregnancy centers based on their viewpoint that discourages abortion.
“It’s unthinkable for the government to force anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. This is especially true of pregnancy care centers, which exist to care for women who want to have their babies,” said Kevin Theriot, Senior Counsel and Vice President of the Center for Life with ADF. “The state shouldn’t have the power to punish anyone for being pro-life. Instead, it should protect freedom of speech and freedom from coerced speech.”
This is especially true because information about abortion is already widely available without forcing people who oppose abortion to also promote the practice.
“The abortion lobby in California likes to pretend that abortion on demand is a non-contentious and widely accepted practice. But that is not the case,” writes Marissa Mayer for the ADF.
She cites a 2017 Marist poll which found that nearly three in four Americans, including a majority of those who identify as pro-choice, want significant restrictions on abortion.
“Millions of Americans do not accept or endorse California’s view of abortion. And they shouldn’t accept the state’s blatant ignorance of constitutionally protected free speech either,” Mayer writes.
The ADF was involved in cases where laws similar to California’s were either struck down or partially invalidated in Texas, Maryland, and New York City, and is currently fighting a case in Illinois.
“The government simply has no business attempting to control the ideology of its citizens through the coercion of private businesses. Pro-life pregnancy centers exist to offer help and hope to pregnant women in need. And in a free society, they must retain the freedom to operate according to their mission without fear of government punishment.”
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