U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in pregnancy centers’ free speech case

supreme court, abortion, pregnancy centers

On March 20, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in NIFLA v. Becerra regarding California’s Reproductive FACT Act, also known as the “bully bill.” The law requires pregnancy centers, which offer life-affirming resources to women, to distribute the following:

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 [insert the telephone number].

The law has already been challenged and made its way through the court system. Last October, Superior Court Judge Gloria Trask ruled that the above speech was “compelled speech,” and thus unconstitutional. The suit had been brought by Scott Scharpen of Go Mobile for Life. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals however, in October 2016, ruled that the law could stand. This particularly pro-abortion circuit has been overturned 80 percent of the time. Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing a pregnancy center network and two pregnancy centers in California, appealed their case to the Supreme Court.

Last November the Supreme Court agreed to decide the fate of the law with National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra. The March 20 date was announced in January.

READ: Ten numbers you should know about pregnancy centers

The case is being billed by pro-lifers as a First Amendment issue, in that no person should be forced to engage in government compelled speech, particularly when it has to do with deeply held beliefs. The Court agreed to hear it on free speech grounds, but declined to decide whether the compelled speech interfered with the free exercise of religion.

A rally was held outside the Court during oral arguments, A Rally to Give Free Speech Life. NIFLA also encouraged supporters to participate in a tweet fest from 8:00 to 11:00 Eastern time, with #GiveFreeSpeechLife.

The law has long had support from NARAL Pro-Choice America, before it even passed. NARAL has a history of attacking pregnancy centers. Their role in the FACT Act was no different, in that NARAL president Ilyse Hogue appeared against Lila Rose to debate the bill and, along with NARAL Pro-Choice California State Director Amy Everitt, wrote an op-ed published in The Mercury News, just before the bill was signed into law by pro-abortion Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

Leading up to Tuesday’s oral arguments, NARAL has continued to share across social media their claims that pregnancy centers are fake clinics which lie to women as a reason why these centers should be compelled to communicate the government’s mandated speech.

But NIFLA is not without allies. In January, an amicus brief signed on by 128 U.S. House Representatives and 16 U.S. Senators was filed by Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD), and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT).

“No person or entity can be required by the government to say or promote ideas they do not believe. That’s exactly what’s happening here, and it’s wrong,” LaMalfa said in a press release from his office. Daines offered:

California’s coercive law does not simply restrict these centers’ speech, it fundamentally alters it – in turn violating the centers’ constitutionally protected conscience rights. I call on the Supreme Court to uphold the First Amendment and strike down this unconstitutional law.

Live Action president and founder Lila Rose stated with regard to the case:

Pro-life pregnancy centers are nonprofits on a mission to help women find alternatives to abortion. Forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion and provide free advertising for abortion facilities is morally reprehensible and a naked abuse of government power. Compelling pro-abortion speech from pro-lifers is also unconstitutional.  

NARAL and Planned Parenthood worked closely with California politicians to pass this law, yet just two years prior,​ ​they​ pushed for and celebrated when​ California repealed its law requiring abortion facilities to disclose alternatives to abortion to their clients. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

If anyone needed proof of the abortion industry’s true agenda, they have it in this case: Don’t talk about adoption, don’t talk about prenatal care, but convince women to have abortions and pass laws to force pro-life pregnancy centers to do the same.

This isn’t just a California issue. The abortion lobby has tried pushing similar laws in other states, and federal courts have struck them down. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will see this absurd law for the blatant violation of free speech that it is and end this attack on pro-life pregnancy centers — and preborn children — once and for all.

Pro-lifers have a hopeful track record when it comes to their First Amendment rights being upheld by the Supreme Court. The 2014 term handed down victories to pro-lifers with regards to political ads and for sidewalk counselors affected by buffer zones in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus and McCullen v. Coakley, respectively. Both were unanimous decisions.

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