In the end, free speech prevailed, but it wasn’t without a fight. A judge in California has put a reportedly “permanent” end to a law that forced pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion, violating their free speech rights. AB775, as explained by the legal group that fought for the pregnancy centers, was laden with problems. Alliance Defending Freedom explains:
California’s Reproductive FACT Act… required 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 had to include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and other abortionists. The law also forced unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures about their non-medical status in all advertisements, even if they provide no medical services.
After the United States Supreme Court chimed in, the law was all-but doomed. It made its way through the courts, and, as the Christian Post reports:
Although the law was upheld in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation’s high court, in a 5-4 June decision, ruled that the law likely violated the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court remanded the case to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
And last week, U.S. District Judge John Houston issued a permanent injunction, declaring AB775 unconstitutional.
Alliance Defending Freedom President, CEO, and General Counsel, Michael Farris, said:
… The district court’s order puts a permanent end to that law in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June, which rightly found that “the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.” The outcome of this case affirms the freedom that all Americans have to speak—or not to speak—in accordance with their conscience.
The Post reports:
The Supreme Court majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas stated that the California law is “unduly burdensome” to the organizations’ constitutional rights.
“California has offered no justification that the notice plausibly furthers. It targets speakers, not speech, and imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech,” the ruling stated.
Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts joined in the majority opinion.
The story adds that Justice Anthony Kennedy made one of his final rulings in this case, and in his concurring opinion, said that government should “not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions…. This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression.”
The 2015 bill not only required these pro-life pregnancy centers to post abortion and contraception services California offers, but also required them to “post notices in 13 languages on site and in all advertising stating that the clinic is not permitted to practice medicine.” If they did not comply, every offense would have cost them up to $1,000.