A Supreme Court case this week has serious implications for freedom of speech as well as religious rights, as it will decide if pro-life advocates must follow a law that requires them to refer clients to abortion clinics, even though it is against their fundamental religious beliefs.
If ruled that they must, failure to do so would mean fines, penalties, and even possible closure of the facility.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates vs. Becerra court case will decide whether the government can force pregnancy resource centers to communicate a message that they completely disagree with. The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) says that the state of California should not be able to force centers to advertise a cause that is against their beliefs, however the state of California disagrees.
The ruling on this case is crucial for the country because it will set a precedent that speaks volumes and could potentially imply that Americans are forced to follow government mandated speech.
The California Reproductive FACT Act
Passed in California in 2015, the ‘Reproductive FACT Act’ requires that all pro-life centers that offer pregnancy counseling and tests (licensed or not) to make information available in their waiting rooms and/or advertising materials for their patients about how to obtain a state-funded abortion. This signage must include a contact phone number where the patient can call for information about the abortion process. This is what the posted signage must look like:
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].
Failure of centers to follow all requirements concerning this mandate is considered to be noncompliant, and could result in over-exaggerated fines that would be hefty enough to put most pro-life centers in a financial crisis that could cause them to have to close their doors.
States Standing Up for Constitutional Rights
Many would argue though that forcing these pro-life pregnancy centers to make referrals to abortion clinics they are adamantly against, goes completely against the principles of these faith-based agencies. Doing so would create government mandated speech, which is unconstitutional.
Many states are beginning to come forward in agreement. Federal as well as state courts in Maryland and Illinois have found these types of laws to be unconstitutional. Pregnancy centers are hopeful, as they see a trend in their favor. The latest victory of a California pregnancy center winning a suit filed against the law is evidence that government mandated speech will not be tolerated. The win indicates that the law violates the free speech rights of California pregnancy centers under the state’s constitution and will likely set a precedent for the Supreme Court to follow. In addition, the law would most likely be declared unconstitutional, blocking other states from trying to use the same approach on abortion as California.
Currently, the pregnancy centers represented by the NIFLA provide a valuable service to many people in California. For many, these pro-life pregnancy centers are often the only assistance disadvantaged mothers receive when they choose life instead of abortion.
The Reproductive FACT Act puts these valuable resource centers in danger, which adversely affects unborn children and unwed mothers who may be vulnerable to abortion. These centers, which are all included in the 1,400 pregnancy care centers, clinics, and adoption centers that make up the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, are critical for support to women who are having crisis pregnancy.
The NIFLA vs. Becerra ruling is important because it will also play a huge role in determining the fate in other legal suits against the FACT Act. Such cases include Mountain Right to Life, represented by Liberty Counsel, and Support Circle, represented by Becket.
A ruling is expected in June 2018 on these cases.
~ 1776 Christian