The Supreme Court ruled against state-mandated speech in pro-life pregnancy centers Tuesday. A California law requiring crisis life pregnancy centers (CPC) to promote abortion clinics alongside of their pro-life services was judged unconstitutional in the 5-4 ruling.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) has roughly 135 crisis pregnancy centers as members in the state of California. The Alliance Defending Freedom, who recently represented Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, represented NIFLA before the court. SCOTUS took the case in November 2017.
The law required that the CPCs disclose abortion information by either posting a notice in “a conspicuous place where individuals wait that may be easily read by those seeking services from the facility” or by a print/digital notice distributed to the patients. The law also regulated the font size and poster size of the notice. CPCs who failed to comply with the law could face a $500 to $1,000 fine.
Justice Clarence Thomas said in the majority opinion that the case was a matter of free speech, not a matter of doctors withholding information.
“The licensed notice at issue here is not an informed-consent requirement or any other regulation of professional conduct. … In sum, neither California nor the Ninth Circuit has identified a persuasive reason for treating professional speech as a unique category that is exempt from ordinary First Amendment principles,” he wrote.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra promised to fight the decision in a statement:
Information is power, and all women should have access to the information they need when making personal health care decisions. The Reproductive FACT Act ensures that women in California receive accurate information about their health care options, including whether a facility is a licensed medical provider. The California Department of Justice will do everything necessary to protect women’s health care rights.
The Alliance Defending Freedom President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael P. Farris argued the case before the Supreme in March. He said that victory reaffirmed that the government cannot force people to express beliefs that run against their conscience.
“In this case, the government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion,” Farris said. “The Supreme Court said that the government can’t do that, and that it must respect pro-life beliefs.”
Americans United for Life’s President and CEO Catherine Glenn Foster also applauded the ruling.
“Today is a victory for more than just the dedicated volunteers who staff pregnancy care centers; it is also a victory for the thousands of women who go to the centers seeking life-affirming care and support. AUL is encouraged by this ruling, and our legal team will continue to support the excellent work of pregnancy care centers, which provide a broad range of support from practical counseling and training to concrete resources such as diapers, formula, and baby clothes.”