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What My Newborn Baby and a Supreme Court Case Have in Common

By Elissa Graves posted on:
January 24, 2018

I brought my newborn daughter home from the hospital on November 13, after an unexpected cesarean section, four sleepless nights, and multiple laps around the maternity ward with my little girl’s bassinet.

That morning, as I waited to be discharged, I anxiously checked my phone for news in our case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, challenging a California law that compels pro-life pregnancy centers in California to speak a message completely at odds with their reason for existence. 

Earlier in 2017, Alliance Defending Freedom asked the United States Supreme Court to take up this important free-speech case challenging the California Reproductive FACT Act. The law requires pro-life medical pregnancy centers to post signs proclaiming that the State of California offers free or low-cost abortions, and to display a phone number to call to get more information. The law also requires that non-medical pregnancy centers—which provide women and their babies with valuable resources such as parenting classes, material support (diapers, clothes, toys, and the like), and emotional support—post a disclaimer in all advertising, in up to 13 different languages, that they are not a medical facility. This requirement makes advertising impossible for these pregnancy centers.

As I lay in my hospital bed, exhausted and thrilled with this new life that I had carried for nine months, I saw my case name on the list of orders released by the Supreme Court: certiorari granted. On March 20, the Supreme Court will hear this landmark case.

I have worked with pregnancy centers for many years, and I have developed the deepest appreciation for what these centers do for women in crisis and unplanned pregnancies. They provide these women (who are often frightened, alone, and without anyone else to turn to) help and hope in what seems like the most hopeless and terrifying of situations.

I have cried tears of joy sitting next to a woman, weeping in gratitude for Pregnancy Care Clinic of El Cajon, California (a plaintiff in this case), which helped her during her unplanned pregnancy, allowing her to meet her precious child that she loves so dearly. I have seen the pain of women who did not have access to these resources, who have had an abortion, and grieve the life of the child they lost.

Early in my career as an attorney, I committed myself to assisting pregnancy centers, in order to enable them to bring help and hope to women in the face of an unplanned pregnancy.

Over the years, many jurisdictions have passed similar laws requiring pregnancy centers to post disclaimers about their services or to talk about abortion, usually at the urging of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, and the like. Similar laws in Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Montgomery County, Maryland; and New York City have been struck down by other courts. In 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit departed from these courts and upheld the FACT Act.

The High Court will now decide the fate of the FACT Act. If the Court reverses the Ninth Circuit decision, pregnancy centers across the nation can finally be protected from these coercive compelled-speech laws. They will be able to serve women and their babies without the government forcing them to speak a pro-abortion message.

As I came home with my beautiful daughter on that November day, I was filled with so much joy and hope, both for my growing family and for all of the women and children served by pregnancy centers every day, knowing that the Supreme Court has the opportunity to right the Ninth Circuit’s wrong.

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Elissa Graves

Elissa Graves

Legal Counsel

Elissa Graves serves as legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a key member of the Center for Life.