ADF responds to California: Govt shouldn’t force pro-life centers to advertise for abortion
WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a pro-life pregnancy center network and two of its centers filed their reply brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to answer the argument of the California attorney general that the government can force pro-life centers to advertise for the abortion industry. On Feb. 20, California filed its brief to defend its 2015 state law, known as AB 775.
“No one should be forced to provide free advertising for the abortion industry—least of all pro-life pregnancy centers,” said ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris, who will argue the case before the high court on behalf of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates and the two NIFLA centers on March 20. “Yet here, the government designed this statute to single out pro-life pregnancy centers and force them to use their walls as billboards to point the way to abortion.”
“California argues that this law is needed because pregnant women are unaware of all of their options, which include abortion. That’s simply not true,” Farris added. “Information about abortion is widely available, and the government has many other ways it can do what it wants to without trampling on the First Amendment protected freedoms of pro-life advocates.”
California 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 others in the abortion industry. The law also forces unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures in multiple languages about their non-medical status in advertisements, which obscure and crowd out their pro-life speech. Failure to comply carries civil fines up to $1,000 per violation. Other courts have invalidated or mostly invalidated similar laws in Austin, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore; and New York City.
Twenty-two states, 144 members of Congress, and many others have filed friend-of-the-court briefs urging the Supreme Court to reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and a lower court’s ruling that allows California to enforce AB 775.
As the ADF reply brief in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra explains, “Even though these centers hold their pro-life views as a matter of deep religious beliefs, California insists they say what their conscience cannot allow. California does not stop there. As part of this targeted scheme, it places facially onerous advertising burdens on the pro-life unlicensed centers—unlike anything required elsewhere under California law. Their advertisements must contain an intrusive disclaimer, in multiple languages and conspicuous font, that wrongly implies that the centers should be licensed—even though they provide no services that require a license. This is obviously designed to hamper the centers’ efforts to reach their audience.”
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.
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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