Supreme Court to Decide Major Pro-Life Speech Case

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by Stephen Wynne  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 14, 2017   

Contested law compels pregnancy centers to promote abortion

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will decide the constitutionality of California's abortion notification law. 

The nation's highest court has agreed to hear a First Amendment challenge to the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act, a measure forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion to clients.


Passed in 2015, the statute compels California's roughly 200 privately funded, pro-life crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post a disclaimer in two "clear and conspicuous" places notifying clients:

California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at (telephone number).

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision to allow the Reproductive FACT Act to remain in place while the case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra moves forward.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a self-described "Catholic," pledged Monday to defend the Reproductive FACT Act before the court.

"Information is power, and all women should have access to the information they need when making personal healthcare decisions," Becerra noted. "The California Department of Justice will do everything necessary to protect women's healthcare rights."

The statute compels the clinic to speak words with which it profoundly disagrees.

Defenders of religious liberty have blasted the law as an unconstitutional infringement on First Amendment rights.

In October, Riverside County Superior Court Justice Gloria Trask agreed, ruling that California has no right to compel CPCs to advertise taxpayer-funded contraception and abortion services. The Reproductive FACT Act, she declared, violates constitutionally protected freedom of speech, as it compels speech of a political or cultural nature.

Such "is not the tool of a free government," warned Trask.

"Compelled speech must be subject to reasonable limitation," she affirmed. "This statute compels the clinic to speak words with which it profoundly disagrees when the state has numerous alternative methods of publishing its message. In this case, however virtuous the state's ends, they do not justify its means."

Pro-life advocates are celebrating the news that the Supreme Court has granted their petition a hearing.

Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, observed Monday, "Forcing anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry is unthinkable — especially when it's the government doing the forcing. This is even more true when it comes to pregnancy care centers, which exist specifically for women who want to have their babies."

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Xavier Becerra, California attorney general

"The state should protect freedom of speech and freedom from coerced speech," he continued. "Information about abortion is just about everywhere, so the government doesn't need to punish pro-life centers for declining to advertise for the very act they can't promote."

Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, echoed Theriot in a press release Tuesday.

Protecting mothers and their children from abortion is the very reason these centers exist. Because this pro-woman/pro-life approach is so successful and because pregnancy centers vastly outnumber abortion businesses, it's no wonder that abortion advocates would seek to dilute and even silence their message. Every success in a pregnancy center is a loss of business for the abortion industry.

"Priests for Life works closely with ... pregnancy center networks," he added. "The people volunteering in these centers are among the most caring, self-giving people in the world. They pour out their lives in order to save lives. ... I am confident that the Supreme Court will vindicate their rights."

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Stephen Wynne

Stephen Wynne is a staff writer for Church Militant.