The Office for Civil Rights, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, noted this week in a press release that it has found that the “State of California violated the federal conscience protection laws known as the Weldon and Coats-Snowe Amendments” by passing the Reproductive FACT Act, which attempted to force pregnancy centers to essentially advertise abortion on behalf of the state by “post[ing] notices stating that California provides free or low-cost family planning services and abortion.”
According to the press release:
The FACT Act also required pregnancy resource centers that constituted “unlicensed covered facilities” under the Act to post notices in advertisements and communications. A violation of the FACT Act threatened civil fines of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
The Weldon and Coats-Snowe Amendments prohibit state and local governments that receive certain federal funds from subjecting health care entities to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not perform or refer for abortions.
Complaints against the state were filed by a number of pregnancy resource centers.
In June of 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of pregnancy centers’ free speech in NIFLA v. Becerra. According to a previous Live Action News report, “The court stated in its majority opinion, delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, that ‘California could… inform the women about its services “without burdening a speaker with unwanted speech,”… most obviously through a public-information campaign.'”
According to the HHS.gov press release:
OCR’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, established last year, conducted an independent investigation and determined that the FACT Act violated the Weldon and Coats-Snowe Amendments by requiring “licensed covered facilities” to refer for abortion and violated the Weldon amendment by subjecting “unlicensed covered facilities” to discrimination by targeting them for burdensome and unnecessary notice requirements because they do not refer for or make arrangements for abortion.
Director of OCR Roger Severino called the FACT Act “blatant discrimination” against “life-affirming” pregnancy centers, adding that “California must follow the Constitution” and “respect federal conscience protection laws when it accepts federal funds.”