The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a California law forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion. The Reproductive FACT Act mandates that these centers make information about public programs with “free or low-cost access” to abortion and contraceptive services available to clients.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) and two other pregnancy centers are represented by Matt Bowman, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom.
“It’s bad enough if the government tells you what you can’t say,” Bowman said, “but a law that tells you what you must say – under threat of severe punishment – is even more unjust and dangerous.
He said there will likely be an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This violation of the foundational roots of the American Republic will not stand,” said Thomas Glessner, president of NIFLA told LifeNews. “There are pending legal options to pursue, and we are discussing with our attorneys our most effective options. This battle is far from over.”
A federal judge has ruled that pregnancy centers in the greater Baltimore area do not have to promote any message other than the message of life.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the City Council had moved to force the pro-life centers to post signs discouraging women from using their services and pointing them to abortion sellers.
“No government or pro-abortion group has the right to invade the privacy of national pro-life organizations,” said attorney Matt Bowman with Alliance Defending Freedom, “simply to grind an ideological axe.”
The ordinance is similar to laws now on the books in California and Illinois where Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are working to protect crisis pregnancy centers from government overreach.
“The court’s decision in this case,” Bowman said, “will provide persuasive precedent to defend free speech there and in other states. This is an important First Amendment victory.”
Tony Perkins with the Family Research Council said it is a step in the right direction.
“I applaud the House for voting to codify longstanding federal conscience protections, and to give pro-life victims of government discrimination the right to sue in court,” he said. “No person, organization or healthcare provider should ever be forced by the government to participate in the abhorrent act of abortion.”
A majority of Republicans were joined by 3 Democrats in voting for the measure that takes steps to stop government discrimination. Matt Bowman, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom said the Obama Administration has repeatedly violated federal law making this bill necessary.
“The House was right to pass this bill to protect the freedom of Americans to practice and choose pro-life health care,” he said, “and we hope the Senate will take it up as well.”
Hearings are under way in the case of a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion. AB 775 requires licensed medical centers offering services to pregnant women to post a disclosure that California offers free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. It also forces non-medical centers to add large disclosures to all advertisements, even if they don’t provide medical services.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys are in court defending the rights of pro-life centers. Matt Bowman asked a district judge to stop the law while the lawsuit proceeds. The judge refused to do so.
“It’s bad enough if the government engages in censorship and tells you what you can’t say,” he said, “but a law that tells you what you must say – under threat of severe punishment – is even more unjust and dangerous.”
Similar laws have been struck down in Texas, Maryland and New York. Bowman hopes that will ultimately be the case in California as well.
“In this case, political allies of the abortion industry are seeking to punish pro-life pregnancy centers, which offer real help and hope to women,” he said. Forcing them to promote abortion and recite the government’s messages is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms.”