WASHINGTON – In a pivotal free speech decision issued Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against government-compelled speech in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. The ruling strikes down a California law that forced pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry and affirmed that the government can’t force Americans to express messages with which they disagree.
Alliance Defending Freedom will host a media briefing featuring ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner, NIFLA President Thomas Glessner, and NIFLA Vice President of Legal Affairs Anne O’Connor at 12:30 p.m. EDT (9:30 a.m. PDT) Tuesday. Interested media may participate online or by calling (425) 440-5100 using guest PIN 356719#.
“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion,” said ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris, who argued on behalf of NIFLA before the Supreme Court in March. “In this case, the government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion. The Supreme Court said that the government can’t do that, and that it must respect pro-life beliefs.”
“Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a diverse society like ours,” Farris added. “They enable us to coexist peacefully with one another. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to others.”
On behalf of the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that “the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail…. This Court’s precedents are deeply skeptical of laws that ‘distinguis[h] among different speakers, allowing speech by some but not others.’”
“The right of free speech protected in the First Amendment not only includes the right to speak, but also the right to not be compelled by government to speak a message with which one disagrees and which violates one’s conscience,” said Glessner. “The court correctly found that the California law clearly offends this principle. We are very pleased with the court’s decision and for what it means for the many pro-life centers that serve and empower women in California and throughout the country.”
The California law, AB 775, required licensed medical centers that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post or distribute a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. The disclosure was also required to include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry. Additionally, the law forced unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures in multiple languages about their non-medical status in advertisements, which obscured and crowded out their pro-life speech. Failure to comply carried civil fines up to $1,000 per violation.
O’Connor, ADF-allied attorney John Eastman of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, 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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