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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - California is bullying pro-life pregnancy centers into promoting abortion, and pro-lifers are taking the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 2015 California Reproductive FACT Act requires pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to point pregnant women in the direction of abortion mills. The law is the fruit of a long pro-abortion smear campaign against crisis pregnancy centers, calling them "fake clinics."
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) is challenging California's law on the grounds of free speech. The NIFLA's suit against California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments are being heard in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Representing NIFLA's case are attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organization that defends the legal rights of Christians to express and act upon their faith in the public square.
According to court transcripts, Michael Farris from ADF opened his speech to the Supreme Court, saying, "California took aim at pro-life pregnancy centers by compelling licensed centers to point the way to an abortion and imposing onerous advertising rules on unlicensed centers that do not provide ultrasounds or any other medical services."
After the oral arguments were heard in the nation's highest court on Tuesday, NIFLA and ADF had an hour-long rally outside the Supreme Court. During the rally, Monica Burke from the Heritage Foundation said:
The other side is saying that we need to end the lies about pregnancy resource centers. That's one thing they're right about because these are not deceptive clinics! These are places that hand out free diapers, maternity clothes, provide baby sitting so that new and expectant mothers can go to their doctor's appointments. What these resources centers do is provide a social network to women who are facing difficult situations. That is the truth about pregnancy resource centers. We do need to end the lies about these centers, because they [have] a message of hope that is constitutionally protected!
Burke went on to argue, "No one — no one! — should be forced to advertise or advocate for something that violates their beliefs."
The rally was bogged down by bad weather. Speakers had to compete with noise from an opposing pro-abortion rally nearby. But it still had a good turnout, with some of those present having traveled from California. (The distance from California to Washington D.C. is about 2,300 miles.)
For the U.S. Supreme Court case NIFLA v. Becerra, attorneys from the Thomas More Society filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of 23-pregnancy-resource centers in Illinois. Their petition supports NIFLA's side of the story that California's FACT Act violates the First-Amendment right to free speech.
Church Militant spoke Monday afternoon with Thomas Olp, vice president and senior counsel at the Thomas More Society. He told Church Militant, "The main purpose of the amicus brief is to alert the Supreme Court of the case here in Illinois."
In 2017, Illinois pro-life pregnancy centers won a legal battle to avoid the same type of compelled speech. Olp commented, "We've got a good result so far in the Illinois court case."
Illinois crisis pregnancy centers would have been required to talk with pregnant women about "the risks and benefits of abortion," Olp said. They challenged this in the courts and got a favorable ruling.
In reference to the U.S. Supreme Court hearing that takes place Tuesday, Olp said, "We need a strong decision in our favor so pregnancy centers can do what they're intended for."
Olp said that NIFLA v. Becerra goes back to a California district court ruling in 2015 that sided against NIFLA.
He told Church Militant at one point, "It's important for the freedom of a pregnancy center not to be told how to do their business."
Olp also said, "Viewpoint discrimination is always contrary to the First Amendment."
He explained that California's FACT Act requires crisis pregnancy centers with licensed medical staff "to indicate that [their] client can get free services in family planning, including abortion, at another facility."
They even have to provide their clients the phone number of a county office that refers women to local abortionists.
The FACT Act also requires crisis pregnancy centers without medical staff to post multilingual signage clarifying that they are not licensed medical facilities.
Olp noted that with California's subsidized healthcare targetting pro-life pregnancy centers like this could be motivated by a desire to save money, on the grounds that an abortion is cheaper for the government than pregnancy services, birth services and neonatal care.
He related, "My way of looking at it is that they're saying, 'We paid for too many births, so we need more abortions.'"
Olp called this alleged motive "pernicious" and "disgusting."