Justices Skeptical About California Law Being Challenged By Anti-Abortion Clinics

Pro-life supporters gather at the Washington Monument to hear Vice President Mike Pence speak at the March for Life rally

TASOS KATOPODIS AFP Getty

Liberal Justice Elena Kagan even expressed concern that the law had been "gerrymandered" to target these pregnancy centers. The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates appealed and the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case a year ago.

Supreme Court justices on Tuesday indicated that a California law requiring antiabortion pregnancy centers in California to notify women that the state provides free or low-priced health care, contraception services and abortion could violate free speech rights.

It ruled the California law amounted to "reasonable licensing" by the state. This case arose from a California law, the Reproductive FACT Act, which represented an effort to protect patients from deceptive and misleading reproductive health information as well as to prevent unnecessary delays in prenatal, abortion and contraceptive care that may happen as a result of visiting fake medical clinics that have an anti-abortion ideology.

The justices suggested they could give a different reception to a law that required all pregnancy-related facilities to post the services they provide and those they don't.

Each of these blue states, along with liberal-leaning municipalities across the country, has passed laws or ordinances that would force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion and/or denigrate the help they offer to women.

In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates vs. Becerra, the court will decide whether pro-life advocates must refer clients to abortion clinics or face fines, penalties and possible closure. That is exactly what the First Amendment is supposed to forbid.

"When you put all this together, you get a very suspicious pattern", Justice Samuel Alito said.

Michael P. Farris, the group's attorney, told the justices Tuesday that the government can't force the clinics to deliver a message that goes against their core convictions. The justices will analyze whether these mandates violate the free speech clause in the First Amendment. The most likely outcome is a fairly narrow decision targeting aspects of this particular state law.

The city has its own 2011 law aimed at crisis pregnancy centers that was also upheld by the 9th Circuit in June.

Since the California pregnancy center staff members are volunteers, their interest isn't money - it's saving lives. Nonmedical centers are compelled to add a lengthy statement disclosing their nonmedical status in all their advertisements.

"If it's about just ensuring that everyone has full information about their options, why should the state free-ride on a limited number of clinics to provide that information?" he asked.

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On the other side, Joshua A. Klein, California's deputy solicitor general, argued that about 700,000 women in the state become pregnant each year and about half of the pregnancies are unintended.

Contrary to the state's unsupported allegations, the women profiled in the TCA brief say they "experienced valuable and informative care".

Second, the California law forces the non-medical pro-life centers to include large-print disclaimers in up to 13 different languages in all their digital and print ads.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said that latter requirement would apply to a facility that wanted to advertise itself with only two words: "Choose Life".

"It's important because women, especially young women seeking help, deserve to know all the information and be told about every option out there", Lauren told Teen Vogue. That's the exact flip side of this case, said Justice Kagan.

"If the Court does hold that Zauderer controls speech by crisis pregnancy centers and speech by abortion providers, that could prove to be a major victory for Team Choice in the long run", the article suggested.

Pro-life pregnancy centers are often located near abortion facilities and sometimes provide sonograms and other medical care for pregnant women, free of charge. Justice Breyer strongly pushed the argument that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander-there should be a consistent rule about whether pro-life states can force pro-choice counselors to make disclosures about adoption and whether pro-choice states can force pro-life counselors to make disclosures about abortion.

At oral arguments Tuesday for the case NIFLA v.

People opposed to the law are unhappy with an exemption for women's health clinics that enroll people in public programs - essentially, programs that support abortion rights, according to an amicus brief.

"So then you are saying on this billboard, the state can require that the content of the message be altered, even though they are not providing medical services?"

Or, some speculate that a ruling against compelled speech on abortion could possibly extend to apply to informed consent laws, which have been shown to lower abortion rates in areas where doctors must inform women about abortion risks, fetal development, and pregnancy resources. Similar ordinances requiring disclosures and referrals regarding abortion services have been rejected as free speech violations by courts in Maryland, New York, and Texas. The nonprofit NIFLA appealed to the Ninth Circuit after a federal judge denied its request for an injunction, bringing the case before the justices without the lengthy history that a trial would produce.

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