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