ADF asks US Supreme Court to halt California law forcing pro-life centers to promote abortion
WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy care centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. ADF attorneys represent a pro-life pregnancy care center network and two pregnancy care centers in the petition they filed with the court Monday.
A federal district judge declined to issue a preliminary injunction to halt the law while the lawsuit, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, proceeds. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit later upheld that decision on appeal. The petition to the U.S. Supreme Court asks it to reverse the ruling and to affirm that forcing the centers to provide the free advertising contrary to their core mission is a violation of their constitutionally protected freedoms.
“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 ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman. “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. The abortion industry already makes millions on abortion and from taxpayer funding; we are asking the Supreme Court to ensure that they won’t be allowed to force unwilling people to promote their business.”
California’s Reproductive FACT Act, AB 775, requires licensed medical centers that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. The disclosure must also include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and other abortionists. The law also forces unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures about their non-medical status in all advertisements, even if they provide no medical services. Other courts have invalidated or mostly invalidated similar laws in Austin, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore; and New York City.
According to the petition filed with the Supreme Court, “California enacted the Reproductive FACT Act with the stated purpose of targeting pro-life ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ based on their viewpoint that ‘discourage[s]’ abortion…. The Ninth Circuit candidly admits that it upheld the Act amidst a ‘circuit split’ over how to scrutinize regulations of speech by medical professionals on controversial health issues.” The petition then goes on to detail how the 9th Circuit’s ruling conflicts with other circuits and with previous decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court itself.
“Pregnant women need a place where they can find help and hope—for themselves and for their babies,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “Pregnancy care centers accomplish that by offering compassionate care to women who feel helpless and alone. So why is the government doing the abortion industry’s dirty work instead of protecting freedom for pregnancy care centers, which offer real choices to women faced with life-and-death decisions? The Supreme Court now has the opportunity to invalidate these unconstitutional laws once and for all.”
“The U.S. tradition of jurisprudence has always respected the freedoms of speech and conscience, whether for medical professionals to not participate in abortions or conscientious objectors to war,” said NIFLA President and Founder Thomas Glessner. “California’s law attempts to force pro-life pregnancy resource centers to become abortion referral agencies. This should shock any supporter of free speech and conscience rights, regardless of their position on politics or abortion.”
ADF-allied attorney John Eastman of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, Anne O’Connor of NIFLA, and Dean R. Broyles of The National Center for Law and Policy are co-counsel in the lawsuit on behalf of NIFLA and the two pregnancy centers.
- Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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