WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to investigate the state of Hawaii for forcing pregnancy centers and pro-life doctors to advertise for the abortion industry. The federal Church and Weldon amendments do not allow states which receive federal funding to compel medical personnel to operate contrary to their conscience or religious beliefs.
In September of last year, Alliance Defending Freedom asked the HHS Office of Civil Rights to investigate Hawaii and Illinois. HHS is still considering whether to investigate Illinois. ADF attorneys represent pro-life pregnancy centers and physicians in a federal lawsuit in Hawaii and both a state and federal lawsuit in Illinois.
“No one should be forced to provide free advertising for the abortion industry—least of all pro-life pregnancy centers,” said ADF Legal Counsel Elissa Graves. “Furthermore, the law simply doesn’t allow it. States that require pro-life doctors and staff to act contrary to their conscience don’t qualify for federal funds. HHS is right to take action in light of the obvious violations of the Church and Weldon amendments.”
In a letter to ADF responding to the Hawaii complaint, the HHS Office of Civil Rights wrote that it “has determined that it has sufficient authority and cause to investigate the allegations under one or more of these laws. Therefore, we have initiated an investigation….”
ADF attorneys submitted the complaint to HHS on behalf of A Place for Women pregnancy center in Hawaii. The complaint explained that the rights of doctors and pregnancy care centers “to offer medical assistance to women in need without compromising their religious convictions relating to abortion or abortion-causing drugs are protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution” in addition to federal law and the Hawaii Constitution.
Hawaii SB 501 requires pro-life pregnancy care centers, which offer free ultrasound and other prenatal care to pregnant women, to direct women to a state agency that provides abortion referrals. Specifically, the law requires pro-life pregnancy centers to post large signs or provide fliers which advertise that the “state of Hawaii provides free or low-cost access to comprehensive planning services”—including abortion-inducing drugs—and they must also include both a website address and phone number for the scheduling of those services.
So far, courts have issued injunctions against the forced-advertising law at issue in both Illinois cases. Courts have invalidated or mostly invalidated similar laws in Austin, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore; and New York City. In March, ADF attorneys argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving a California law.
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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