It has been a year since the United States Supreme Court delivered a huge victory for life and free speech in National Institute for Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra. The Court found that California was wrong to require pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion.
Pro-life pregnancy centers exist to help women discover alternatives to abortion, but this law required them to go against their very mission. Worse: this law specifically targeted these pro-life pregnancy centers!
This was compelled speech. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the pregnancy centers. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that forcing the centers to express messages against their beliefs violated the First Amendment.
And in a concurring opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express messages contrary to their deepest held beliefs. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties.”
But the battle for these pro-life pregnancy centers did not end at the Supreme Court steps. The law went back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit with plenty of unanswered questions.
Would a lower court officially stop the law that compelled speech for pro-life pregnancy centers once and for all? Would similar laws in other states come to an end?
Now we have an answer to these questions.
In September 2018, the Ninth Circuit returned this case to a district court. And in October, the district court officially halted the enforcement of the law. Praise God!
This means that pro-life pregnancy directors in California will no longer have to worry about the government compelling them to speak against their pro-life mission. But it doesn’t end there. As a direct result of the NIFLA decision, pro-life pregnancy centers in other states won’t have to either.
While NIFLA was working its way up to the Supreme Court, laws in other states similarly forced pro-life pregnancy centers to speak against their beliefs. ADF attorneys had filed lawsuits against these laws in Illinois and Hawaii as well.
In July 2017—a few months before NIFLA was argued at the Supreme Court—a district court halted the Illinois law. We’re hopeful that decision will become permanent soon. And thanks to the Supreme Court decision in NIFLA, a federal court halted Hawaii’s law in September 2018.
The NIFLA decision paved the way for even more wins for free speech and life. Hopefully, we see this trend continue. As of this April, ADF is challenging another law that compels the speech of pro-life pregnancy centers in Hartford, Connecticut.
While this past year has seen increasing attacks on the sanctity of life, the NIFLA decision and these wins continue to give free speech life. And that’s something to celebrate.