A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court appeared receptive today (March 20) to arguments by pro-life pregnancy centers that a state law requiring them essentially to publicize abortion services violates their free speech.
The justices’ decision in the case — expected before they end their term this summer — will likely have major repercussions for hundreds of pregnancy care centers in numerous states. The California law at issue is part of an ongoing effort by abortion-rights advocates and their lawmaking allies in cities and states to limit the impact of pro-life centers that provide free services to pregnant women.
Today’s oral arguments gave the pregnancy centers’ advocates reason to hope the high court will rule in their favor. Justices from both the ideological middle and left of the court expressed strong reservations about the law.
California’s 2015 Reproductive FACT Act requires licensed pregnancy centers to post a notice for or otherwise inform clients in writing of the state’s free or low-cost access to abortion and other family planning services. The law also mandates unlicensed centers provide a notice they are not licensed medically and do not have a licensed medical professional.
With the oral arguments, “we see once again the outrageous demands being made in this case, ones that strike at the very heart of the freedom this nation has always sought to uphold and protect,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
“Time and again, we see the abortion industry maneuvering to silence any and all dissent that would threaten their industry of death,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “I’m hopeful the Supreme Court will rule against these efforts that aim to steamroll groups serving vulnerable women.”
Pro-life advocates and organizations have established thousands of pregnancy centers to assist women in need since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973. Many provide free ultrasound scans that demonstrate the humanity of the unborn child and often help women decide to give birth. The centers’ services also include medical consultations, baby clothing and diapers, job training, mentoring programs, and prenatal and parenting classes.
If the California law survives the legal challenge, pro-life centers would face fines of as much as $1,000 a day for defiance of its requirements. Other states with pro-choice legislatures and governors could follow California’s example. Illinois and Hawaii already have enacted similar laws.
The Reproductive FACT Act requires licensed pregnancy centers to post a notice for clients that says, “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].”
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Source: Baptist Press