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US top court to hear dispute over California pregnancy center law

14 November 2017, 01:57 | Melvin Schneider

Activists on both sides awaiting last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion access. Rena Schild

SCOTUS abortion protest

Does a California law violate the Constitution by requiring anti-abortion pregnancy centers to inform clients about free or low-priced abortion and contraception services?

U.S. Supreme Court building.

Last month a California Superior Court Justice put a halt to the law with a permanent injunction, ruling that the state can not force pro-life pregnancy centers to post signage promoting state-covered abortions to their clients.

But the justices said in an order issued Monday that they would only consider the free speech clause issue, setting the stage for a significant ruling on compelled speech: to what extent can the government require people to convey speech with which they disagree. "Information about abortion is just about everywhere, so the government doesn't need to punish pro-life centers for declining to advertise for the very act they can't promote".

The Reproductive FACT Act was passed in October 2015. "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", the alliance's senior counsel Kevin Theriot said in a statement Monday.

"Information is power, and all women should have access to the information they need when making personal healthcare decisions", Becerra said.

Liberty Counsel represents three pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in Southern California, all of which offer women experiencing crisis pregnancies resources, counseling, advice and alternatives to abortion. Some are medically licensed facilities, others are not.

Jerry Brown in 2015, the law says the centers must post or distribute a notice that says in part "California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-priced access" to such services as contraception and abortion.

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Centers not licensed by the State of California must post a notice that they are not a licensed medical facility.

The pro-life centers asked the Supreme Court to hear their case after the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against them previous year. The NIFLA case, the first of the four cases to reach the Supreme Court, is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom.

Pro-life advocates who have opposed the law, including The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), praised the Supreme Court for deciding to hear what it called a "critical free speech case".

The other plaintiffs are two centers in San Diego County. The ruling on the NIFLA case will apply to the other three cases.

The Supreme Court found that women have a constitutional right to an abortion in the landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade.

The abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice California was a prime sponsor of the California law.

The law violates "the principle that one can not be conscripted into acting as a ventriloquist's dummy for a government message", says Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, representing some of the centers.



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