BLOGHow the Deceptively Named Reproductive FACT Act Harms Women and Free Speech

By Marissa Mayer Posted on: | March 21, 2018

Can you imagine waking up one day to find out that your state had passed a law that specifically targets your ministry—your livelihood—with the goal of shutting you up or shutting you down?

How do you think that would feel?

Heidi Matzke, director of Alternatives Pregnancy Center (APC) in California doesn’t have to imagine it—she’s living it.

The State of California passed a law, AB775, targeting pro-life pregnancy centers like APC. The law, deceptively called the Reproductive FACT Act, forces these centers to contradict their pro-life mission by advertising for the abortion industry—even in their own buildings.

“We have experienced the substantial cost that comes with having to protect our freedom of speech, as we remind the government how fundamentally wrong it is to force its citizens to speak words that are contrary to their core beliefs,” says Heidi. “This coercion is a violation of our rights written of in our Constitution, and up until now, wasn't allowed.”

This law is a big deal. It was passed with the encouragement of abortion groups to target pregnancy centers with no regard for how it would impact the women who walk into centers like APC looking for help—looking for an alternative to abortion.

But for someone like Heidi, the way this law affects women in her state is at the forefront of her mind. Here is what she recently had to say about it:

Understanding our [center’s] context in a woman's life is vital in recognizing why AB775 is so troubling. The words, "You are pregnant," are powerful to a woman. They alter lives. Some women have been waiting their whole life to hear them, but for others, those words come with great fear, regret, shame, and uncertainty of one's future. In that moment when they're teetering on the edge of now and their future, women deserve more than a sign posted on a wall. A phone number and an operation do not encompass their value and worth as women, and never can.

At Alternatives Pregnancy Center, we strive to serve the whole woman - medically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We take the time to meet one-on-one with each client to find out what she needs as a woman, an individual, as a human being. And not once do we financially profit from any decision she makes. Yet the opposition wants to minimize their story, shrink the issue, and cut it up until it fits inside the mold of a phone number and an abortion. What does this say to women? What message are we sending them by saying, "Regardless of your feelings, emotions, thoughts, and personal life situation, this is the sign for you, this should be your choice."  This is an attempt to eclipse a woman's complexity and [contradicts] why we exist.

It is also vital to note that nearly 85% of those that are employed or volunteer at our clinic have had abortions. They have personally experienced the procedure, have lived with the regret, pain, and shame caused by their choice. They have spent a great deal of time going through post-abortion recovery classes to process and grow from their experiences, but none of them can ever forget. Many of them have said, "If I'd only known that there was a place like Alternatives Pregnancy Center and sought their help, my life would look very different today, and my child would still be alive." Being involved in the work of Alternatives Pregnancy Center is their way of healing their own hurt while helping other women see hope in the midst of difficult decisions.

The truth is that this law disregards the importance of free speech, and it doesn’t take into account the harm women will experience as a result.

Remember, a government that will force anyone to speak a message that they don’t want to speak is overstepping its authority. Free speech must be protected. If this law is allowed to stand, what’s to stop them from targeting your speech next? Your business? Your livelihood?

On March 20, ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris argued against this law at the United States Supreme Court in the case of NIFLA v. Becerra. He asked the court to protect freedom of speech—not just for these pregnancy centers and people like Heidi, but for anyone who would be forced by the government to speak a message that contradicts their sincerely held beliefs.

Learn more about this case and watch Heidi’s story.

Marissa Mayer

Senior Web Writer

Marissa Mayer is an Arizona native who fell in love with the written word at a young age.

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