Photo Credit: Sunira Moses (CC-By-SA 3.0)
Photo Credit: Sunira Moses (CC-By-SA 3.0)

(Washington, DC) The Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), March for Life Education Fund, and Susan B. Anthony List’s National Pro-life Women’s Caucus have submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of pro-life pregnancy help centers (PHCs) that are challenging California’s so-called “Reproductive FACT Act,” which forces them to advertise and refer for abortion. They were joined by Liberty Counsel who filed a separate amicus briefNational Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, one of four cases brought before the Supreme Court by crisis pregnancy centers challenging the law as a violation of the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and free exercise of religion.

The Court is expected to hear arguments in NIFLA v. Becerra this February and issue a ruling by July. The Court agreed to review the NIFLA case on the limited question of “whether the disclosures required by the California Reproductive FACT Act violate the protections set forth in the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Bioethics Defense Fund (BDF) attorneys, serving as lead counsel, set forth a foundational legal argument that the role of government is to promote the preservation of human life, not its destruction. “Forcing [pregnancy help centers] to refer for abortion undermines their mission and threatens their existence with a never-before-recognized state interest in promoting the destruction of innocent human life,” the CLI-March for Life-SBA List amicus brief states.

Their brief’s main section set forth CLI research revealing that an overwhelming majority of Americans, regardless of whether they self-identify as “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” consider PHCs a valuable community resource. In 2010, PHCs provided more than 2 million people with free or low-cost services, with estimated community cost savings of more than $100 million, and surveys indicate PHCs have extremely high rates of client satisfaction.

That particular brief also set forth CLI-compiled data showing the impact of PHCs:

  • 2,752 center locations nationwide that provide vital services including obstetrical care, lactation services and parenting classes;
  • Six in 10 locations (or 1,661) offer free ultrasounds (up 10 percent since 2010)
  • 577 locations offer STD testing, 400 locations offer STD treatment onsite (up from 260 centers offering such services in 2010)
  • 100 mobile units with ultrasound rolling on the road to bring services to women out in the community
  • 30,000 contacts per month to Heartbeat International Option Line hotline
  • 81,630 volunteers (up 15 percent from 2010 figure of 70,000 volunteers; nine out of 10 center workers are volunteers)
  • 6.5 million volunteer hours (up from 5.7 million in 2010)

“The nation’s pro-life pregnancy centers and their advocates welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to accept this case,” said CLI President Chuck Donovan.  “In communities across the country, these facilities offer low- or no-cost services for women who seek to carry their children to term. California’s coercive law will not save one life; rather it will hasten the destruction of life and hope for many by targeting the heart of pregnancy centers’ mission of service. The law would also reduce women’s options at one of the most critical times in their lives. We look forward to a clear message from the High Court that this mandate and its cruel effects violate fundamental First Amendment guarantees.”

“For a government to conscript its citizens into its program to promote the death of innocent human beings would be contrary to the entire Western political tradition stretching back to the ancient Greeks, down to the Founding era, and up to our current Constitutional government,” said BDF president and general counsel Nikolas T. Nikas.

“Whatever interest California might have or desire in promoting abortion,” BDF counsel Dorinda C. Bordlee added, “that interest is certainly not compelling enough to force individuals and organizations to violate their rights of free speech, nor to devastate their ability to serve vulnerable mothers and children in a manner consistent with their mission and values.”

Liberty Counsel’s case, Mountain Right to Life v. Becerra, will be held at the Court until it resolves the NIFLA case, likely this spring. Liberty Counsel represents three pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in Southern California, all of which offer women experiencing crisis pregnancies resources, counseling, advice and alternatives to abortion.

All of the centers are faith-based and will not refer women for abortions. Under the California law, San Bernardino Pregnancy and Family Resource Center, and all other licensed pregnancy counseling centers in the state are required to post the following government-prescribed message in their facilities and in their advertising or be fined $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for each additional violation:

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].

His Nesting Place in Long Beach, Birth Choice of the Desert in La Quinta, and other centers not licensed by the State of California must post a notice that they are not a licensed medical facility in all print and online advertising and in their physical facilities or fact the same fines. The notice for unlicensed clinics consists of an announcement that the clinic is a not a medical facility and has no doctor on staff.  It must be written in 48-point type in up to 12 languages, depending on the county. His Nesting Place has to post notices in 12 languages and Birth Choice of the Desert has to post in two languages.

Liberty Counsel challenged the law in federal court on behalf of the three pro-life pregnancy centers because the law violates the United States Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of speech and free exercise of religion in the First Amendment. In that case, a federal district court judge and a three- judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Liberty Counsel’s request for a preliminary injunction, finding that it was not likely that the law violates the First Amendment.

“We are hopeful this forced speech law will be overturned by the Supreme Court,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The California law forces crisis pregnancy centers to speak a message that goes directly against their religious beliefs and mission to save lives. The First Amendment protects the right to speak and the right not to speak,” said Staver.

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