“There were two little lines. Her eyes blurred with tears; she didn’t exactly want to be pregnant.”
At least two paths diverge in front of a new mom. She cannot travel both. The path she chooses makes a difference. This isn’t a choose-your-own-adventure paperback; its real life.
The choices to parent, place a child for adoption, or abort are profound and complex. Many Americans believe those options are not morally equal. Far too many women who choose the third option deeply regret their choice and pay the emotional consequences. But, even though Americans disagree on these convictions and consequences, they can agree that government has no business pushing “Option #3 – Abortion” on an expectant mother.
Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court emphatically agrees.
Honesty In Advertising
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court handed down a decisive victory for free speech, for tolerance, and for honesty in advertising. In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the court ruled that it is unconstitutional for the government to compel a third party to voice a message or tell a story it doesn’t believe. In his majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas clearly noted, “California cannot co-opt the licensed facilities to deliver its message for it.”
In that decision, the high court declared California’s AB 775 an attack on the freedoms Americans hold dear. California’s legislation had forced pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. It specifically targeted pro-life centers — both licensed and unlicensed facilities — with burdensome regulations that didn’t even apply to medical health care facilities that provide the majority of care to pregnant women.
The majority held that the requirements leveraged against license centers were “content-based regulation of speech” and that “compelling individuals to speak a particular message” alters “the content of [their] speech.” Such a mandate is unconstitutional.
Drowned In Ink, Smothered By A Government Message
Pro-life medical centers that offer free ultrasounds, as well as resources like maternity clothes and parenting classes, would be required to post signs or distribute documents stating that the state of California offers free or low-cost abortions. Unlicensed centers (ones that offer free counseling, baby clothes, parenting classes, and a range of other services) would be required to publish a state mandated message in multiple languages on all their advertisements. Even the simplest ad: “Pregnant? Scared? We can help” would be drowned in a sea of ink — smothered by a government message, intended to raise doubts.
In essence, California intended to force the “choice” of abortion in front of every young woman, even those specifically looking for other options — looking for the encouragement that she was strong enough, loved enough, and supported enough to carry her child to term. But Tuesday the Supreme Court soundly rebuked California’s ham-fisted attempt to compel speech and downplay a woman’s choice to proceed with pregnancy and motherhood.
Pregnancy Centers Provide The Ultimate ‘Safe Space’
Every woman deserves the option of a welcoming couch and an inviting and cheerful “third space” where she can talk through her options and explore the possibility of motherhood. Because of the grassroots nature of their community service, the full scope of their full service is difficult to quantify. But data from 2010 indicates that pro-life pregnancy centers have served “more than 2 million people, with estimated community cost savings of more than $100 million.” More recent data from 2016 indicates over 2,700 different center locations; 248,832 free ultrasounds performed; and one national network of more than 1,000 affiliated centers boasts a 98.7 percent client satisfaction rating.
Pro-life pregnancy centers provide that space — a shoulder to cry on and room to breathe and plan for a new adventure. If money’s tight, some pregnancy centers often provide the client her first pair of maternity jeans, baby’s first onesie, and car seat — all at no charge. The government has no business attacking this kind of care and papering a center’s walls with abortion advertisements when the center’s mission is to strengthen a mom and dad and celebrate a baby’s arrival. The Supreme Court was right to put a stop to that.
Tuesday’s decision is a win for tolerance and respect. We do not yet agree about the best ways to support women making difficult choices about pregnancy. But even Americans who call themselves “pro choice” can celebrate this court’s decision to protect authentic options and protect freedom for a woman to choose motherhood.
Many real-life pregnancy stories open with the panic and nervous disbelief that there are two little lines on a pregnancy test. But so many of those same stories continue and, for thousands, the chapter ends with a mother exhausted but grateful. She’s holding the child she didn’t anticipate — surrounded by friends, supported by family, and showered with the help and encouragement she needs to choose her own adventure.
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling, California is no longer permitted to manipulate the plot, compel a single story line, or rewrite the rewarding adventure that many women pursue.