By Brittany Jones, Esq., policy manager for Family Policy Alliance®
Today was a monumental day for all those who seek to freely live out their faith. In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, the Court struck down a California state law that forced pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for state-funded abortions, discrediting themselves in the eyes of women in need and undermining their pro-life mission.
On the heels of the Court’s opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop in which it said the government could not target Christian cake baker, Jack Phillips, for his faith, the Court has now recognized the need to protect prolife pregnancy centers from government targeting as well. In both these cases, the Court clearly said it is unconstitutional to target a person’s belief. However, the Court went even farther today and reinforced that the government cannot compel a private organization to violate its belief and speak a message that is antithetical to the organization’s very purpose.
How did we get here?
In 2015, California passed the Reproductive FACT Act, requiring that private pregnancy centers advertise for taxpayer-funded abortions and also disclose that they are not licensed for medical care. Proponents of the California law claimed that the Act applies to all facilities that provide care to pregnant women, but in reality, the law only affects crisis pregnancy centers. Ironically, the Act exempts all facilities that are California government insurance providers – which includes all abortion facilities.
Our state-based policy ally California Family Council and national ally Alliance Defending Freedom, who led the lawsuit challenging California’s law, have been fighting this law since the beginning. Family Policy Alliance, together with over 40 of our state-based family policy allies, also joined forces to submit an amicus brief on behalf of the pregnancy centers. We are grateful that a majority of the Justices agreed to uphold free speech and the centers’ right to freely live out their faith.
What the Court said
The Court was asked to determine whether the state of California can force pro-life, crisis pregnancy centers to advertise for state-sponsored abortion clinics. And the Court said no for two reasons.
Restricting pro-life speech
Forcing faith-based pregnancy centers to refer for abortions is not only outrageous, but also unthinkable. Our First Amendment was written to protect against this very situation—where the state attempts to force organizations, in this case those with pro-life beliefs, to promote values that directly oppose their very reason for being.
Even Justice Kennedy in his concurring opinion remarked that the legislature appeared to be targeting the pro-life message. He noted, “This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression. For here the State requires primarily pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions. This compels individuals to contradict their most deeply held beliefs, beliefs grounded in basic philosophical, ethical, or religious precepts, or all of these.”
Targeting pro-life people/entities and diminishing the pregnancy centers’ ability to help those in need
Just as the Court denounced the state government targeting Christian beliefs in Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Court also rejected targeting those with pro-life beliefs in this case. The Court noted that the California legislature intentionally used this law to target pro-life organizations.
Justice Thomas, in the majority opinion, wrote that this Act was targeting specific speakers rather than specific speech in violation of the First Amendment. Further, the Court recognized that the requirements of the Act would essentially drown out the pregnancy centers’ message and keep them from using certain forms of advertising. Pregnancy centers provide critical hope and support to women in crisis, and they must be allowed to participate in our culture.
Where do we go from here?
California’s law was just an indication of what is going on across the nation. Pregnancy centers have been facing harsh targeting from members of the abortion industry—and their allies in state legislatures. Activists on the Left work to undermine pregnancy centers using online bullying tactics. Legislatures have been considering bills that would restrict pregnancy centers’ ability to provide care.
The Court said today that the government cannot bully pregnancy centers to speak a message that they disagree with—and now is the time for state legislatures to protect these centers so that they can continue to serve and minister to women in a time of need. And lawmakers also must continue to ensure that the abortionists who actually perform the invasive abortion procedure are held accountable and follow the law.
We hope you will continue to partner with Family Policy Alliance and the state-based family policy council ally in your state to ensure that everyone has the ability to freely live out their faith—without unjust interference by the government.
By Stephanie Curry, an attorney and policy manager for Family Policy Alliance
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear its first abortion-related case since the appointment of Neil Gorsuch. The case, NIFLA v. Becerra, will have enormous implications for the nation and the pro-life movement. As we discussed in the article “Should Pregnancy Centers Be Forced to Become Abortion Advertisers?,” the major question Supreme Court Justices will be addressing is whether the state of California can force pro-life, crisis pregnancy centers to advertise state-sponsored abortion clinics.
There are well over 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers throughout the U.S. that provide free resources to women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy. These centers support the life of the mother and child by providing free resources like ultrasounds, maternity clothing, baby clothes, parenting classes and much more.
One service most pregnancy centers provide, which has been the subject of this recent controversy, are referrals. Pregnancy centers offer referrals for housing, career development, counseling or adoption.
But one referral you won’t find at most pregnancy centers is a referral for an abortion. The mission of most pregnancy resource centers is to provide encouragement, love, and support to a woman who is experiencing anxiety or fear because of an unplanned pregnancy. These centers fill in a gap offering prenatal care and real family planning services to help women that might feel their only alternative is an abortion.
Yet, in October 2015, California’s “Reproductive FACT Act” was enacted, requiring that life-supporting pregnancy centers provide women and families a referral to state-sponsored abortion clinics. Pro-life pregnancy centers would also be required to post large signs on their walls offering “free or low-cost access” to abortions. If the pregnancy centers refuse to post a sign, they could be fined and sued by the State of California. Many pregnancy centers are faith-based, and their very mission is to protect the life of the baby by providing referrals for alternatives to abortion, like adoption.
It is not only outrageous, but also unthinkable – based on our First Amendment – that pro-life organizations can be forced by the state to promote values that directly oppose their very reason for being.
That’s why Family Policy Alliance and dozens of our state allies joined in producing and presenting a powerful legal brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in advance of this case being heard. That effort was led by California Family Council, our allied organization in the Golden State.
As our legal brief states: “It is hard to imagine a greater imposition on individual conscience. It is hard to imagine a more repugnant form of forced speech” than one that forces life-giving organizations to give referrals to abortion clinics.
We stand with our state allies to fight for religious freedom and the rights of organizations like NIFLA to be free to practice their First Amendment rights. We especially stand for the right to life and the ability of pregnancy centers to strengthen families. For many years, Family Policy Alliance and our state allies have fought in state legislatures to protect and honor the work of pro-life pregnancy centers—and with your help, we won’t stop advocating for these amazing ministries.
What You Can Do: Please pray for the Supreme Court hearing today. Pray that a majority of the justices will rule based on the weight of the legal arguments in the Alliance’s brief and in the oral presentation by our ally, attorney Michael Farris with Alliance Defending Freedom. Please also continue to partner with Family Policy Alliance as we work to protect prolife organizations in your state and every state.
By Brittany Jones, Policy Manager
Can the government force a private entity to speak when the thing they are being forced to promote goes directly against their core beliefs—and even their very reason for existence?
That is what the Supreme Court will be deciding this March in a major case called NIFLA v. Becerra. In California, crisis pregnancy centers are being targeted for their message that all life is precious. California’s government has demonstrated clear bias in favor of abortion and is now forcing these pregnancy centers to display advertising for abortion services.
In 2015, the Reproductive FACT Act was passed, requiring that private pregnancy centers advertise taxpayer-funded abortion to the women entering the facilities. Presumably, this Act applies to all facilities that provide care to pregnant women, but in reality the bill only affects crisis pregnancy centers. Ironically, the Act exempts all facilities that are California government insurance providers – which includes all abortion facilities.
Our ally, California Family Council, has been fighting this law since the beginning. Family Policy Alliance, together with over 40 of our state-based family policy allies, have joined forces to submit an amicus brief in this major Supreme Court case on behalf of the pregnancy centers.
The Supreme Court allows entities to file briefs in support of a party in a case. These briefs are known as amicus briefs and are intended to give justices a fuller understanding of the viewpoints on either side of the issue. These can be very important in the decision-making process for justices. In fact, our amicus brief in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, another major abortion-related case from 2016, was cited in Justice Alito’s dissent. These seemingly small documents can have a great effect on the outcome of important cases.
The brief argues that pregnancy centers should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs by conspicuously promoting something they believe is morally wrong and sinful – the killing of a preborn baby. It also argues that the state is compelling speech unconstitutionally. The speech of private entities ought to be protected and only compelled in certain instances. In this case, there is no justification to compel private speech, especially when it interferes a religious belief. The Act is forcing pro-life clinics to essentially become advertisers for the very thing they are fighting against.
We just concluded Sanctity of Human Life month in January, but that does not mean we should stop fighting for the right to life for every child! Please partner with Family Policy Alliance, and our ally in your state, as we advance these critical human rights—the right to life and the right to freely live according to your beliefs.