Pro-Life Speech Case Coming to SCOTUS March 20

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Pro-Life Speech Case Coming to SCOTUS March 20

Update to a Novem­ber 2017 post: California’s attor­ney gen­eral is on the U.S. Supreme Court’s sched­ule for March 20, at which time he can explain why he should be able to tell pro-​life preg­nancy cen­ters to adver­tise for abor­tions. That ought to elicit some search­ing ques­tions from the Justices.

The case is National Insti­tute of Fam­ily and Life Advo­cates [NIFLA] v. Becerra. NIFLA is a group of non­profit pro-​life preg­nancy cen­ters in Cal­i­for­nia. Xavier Becerra is the state’s attor­ney gen­eral. The law in dis­pute is called California’s Repro­duc­tive FACT Act. It requires that cer­tain types of facil­i­ties post and dis­trib­ute infor­ma­tion on the avail­abil­ity of free or low-​cost access to abor­tion. It’s as though busi­ness is so lousy at abor­tion clin­ics that the state has to dra­goon pro-​life agen­cies into doing their adver­tis­ing for them.

The type of facil­ity is defined in such a way that the law only applies to about 200 non­profit pro-​life clin­ics, not to any of the other thou­sands of places in Cal­i­for­nia where a preg­nant woman might go for assis­tance. From NIFLA’s brief to the Supreme Court (ref­er­ences omit­ted; empha­sis added):

The leg­isla­tive record expressly states that the impe­tus for the Repro­duc­tive FACT (Free­dom, Account­abil­ity, Com­pre­hen­sive Care, and Trans­parency) Act…was dis­agree­ment with pro-​life cen­ters’ mes­sages. Leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee reports with bill spon­sor state­ments noted “that, unfor­tu­nately, there are nearly 200 licensed and unli­censed clin­ics known as cri­sis preg­nancy cen­ters (CPCs) in Cal­i­for­nia,” which “aim to dis­cour­age and pre­vent women from seek­ing abor­tions.”…Although the bill spon­sor claimed that these cen­ters “often con­fuse [and] mis­in­form” women,…neither the leg­isla­tive his­tory nor the record con­tains any objec­tive or impar­tial evi­dence that preg­nancy cen­ters like Peti­tion­ers actu­ally “mis­in­form” any­one about their med­ical sta­tus or services[.]

There are fines for non­com­pli­ance. Any­one who has vol­un­teered for a pro-​life preg­nancy care cen­ter knows that such agen­cies are lean oper­a­tions; a fine need not be steep to be ruinous.

This is a First Amend­ment case. Can the gov­ern­ment com­pel a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion to deliver a mes­sage incon­sis­tent with the organization’s mis­sion? Cal­i­for­nia might be hav­ing finan­cial prob­lems, but appar­ently the AG’s bud­get includes resources to argue this case all the way to SCO­TUS. NIFLA is rely­ing on assis­tance from Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom, the same legal group that suc­cess­fully rep­re­sented Eleanor McCullen in the Mass­a­chu­setts buffer zone case.

Stay tuned.

Ellen Kolb is a writer and pro-​life activist based in New Hamp­shire. Read more at ellenkolb​.com,

Let’s keep DaT­e­chGuy up and run­ning! Hit Da Tip Jar to sup­port inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ism. Thanks!

Update to a November 2017 post: California’s attorney general is on the U.S. Supreme Court’s schedule for March 20, at which time he can  explain why he should be able to tell pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions. That ought to elicit some searching questions from the Justices.

The case is National Institute of Family and Life Advocates [NIFLA] v. Becerra. NIFLA is a group of nonprofit pro-life pregnancy centers in California. Xavier Becerra is the state’s attorney general. The law in dispute is called California’s Reproductive FACT Act.  It requires that certain types of facilities post and distribute information on the availability of free or low-cost access to abortion. It’s as though business is so lousy at abortion clinics that the state has to dragoon pro-life agencies into doing their advertising for them.

The type of facility is defined in such a way that the law only applies to about 200 nonprofit pro-life clinics, not to any of the other thousands of places in California where a pregnant woman might go for assistance. From NIFLA’s brief to the Supreme Court (references omitted; emphasis added):

The legislative record expressly states that the impetus for the Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency) Act…was disagreement with pro-life centers’ messages. Legislative committee reports with bill sponsor statements noted “that, unfortunately, there are nearly 200 licensed and unlicensed clinics known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in California,” which “aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions.”…Although the bill sponsor claimed that these centers “often confuse [and] misinform” women,…neither the legislative history nor the record contains any objective or impartial evidence that pregnancy centers like Petitioners actually “misinform” anyone about their medical status or services[.] 

There are fines for noncompliance. Anyone who has volunteered for a pro-life pregnancy care center knows that such agencies are lean operations; a fine need not be steep to be ruinous.

This is a First Amendment case. Can the government compel a nonprofit organization to deliver a message inconsistent with the organization’s mission? California might be having financial problems, but apparently the AG’s budget includes resources to argue this case all the way to SCOTUS. NIFLA is relying on assistance from Alliance Defending Freedom, the same legal group that successfully represented Eleanor McCullen in the Massachusetts buffer zone case.

Stay tuned.

Ellen Kolb is a writer and pro-life activist based in New Hampshire. Read more at ellenkolb.com,

Let’s keep DaTechGuy up and running! Hit Da Tip Jar to support independent journalism. Thanks!