Politics & Policy

Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers Should Not Have to Advertise Abortion

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
The heart and soul of the First Amendment is at risk in a case before the Supreme Court.

In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, which is being argued today, the U.S. Supreme Court will determine the future of the free-speech rights of nearly 3,000 pro-life pregnancy centers nationwide. Its ruling will have ramifications far beyond the walls of pro-life pregnancy centers.

Women facing unplanned pregnancies need compassionate support and resources during their time of decision. Pro-life pregnancy centers provide hundreds of thousands of these mothers with such resources and information annually, at no charge, to empower them to choose life and welcome a new life into their families and communities.

Pro-life pregnancy centers are exactly that: pro-life. This means that they care for both the mother and her unborn baby and so do not provide or refer for abortion. Abortion is a deadly option that ends one life and wounds another. These life-affirming agencies want to save lives and heal others, so they do not promote abortion in any way.

The effectiveness of these centers is evident. According to one study, the estimated savings to taxpayers from the services that the member centers of the three most prominent pregnancy-center national umbrella groups — Care Net, Heartbeat, and NIFLA — provided was over $100 million for just one year, 2010. In addition, these agencies drew on the help of over 71,000 volunteers, who performed an estimated 5,705,000 uncompensated hours of work. Multiply that figure by the minimum wage and you can easily see the value of such workers of compassion.

With a track record like that, one would think that society would welcome and value pro-life pregnancy centers. This is generally true, but not so for one interest group in our nation: pro-abortion government officials.

For decades, legislators have curried favor with the abortion industry by passing laws that would severely restrict the work of pro-life pregnancy centers and even close them down. Such attempts have failed even in blue states, including Washington, Oregon, and Maryland. Federal courts have found restrictive ordinances unconstitutional in New York City, Baltimore, and Montgomery County, Md.

In 2015, however, the California legislature passed the so-called Reproductive FACT Act, which mandates that pro-life medical clinics become advertising agents for the abortion industry. The law requires them to post in their waiting areas a sign advising patients on how to obtain a state-funded abortion.

The sign must be in a large, 22-point font, must include a phone number to call to get the abortion procedure started, and must be in all of the languages commonly spoken in the surrounding area, which is as many as 13 languages in some counties of California. Non-medical pregnancy centers must also post a sign in 48-point font; they must also feature in all of their advertising, including their websites, a message that discourages inquirers and clients from seeking their services. Failure to comply with these compelled mandates carry massive fines and penalties that eventually would close the pro-life centers. That, of course, is a long-stated goal of the abortion industry.

Americans shouldn’t be forced by the government to promote messages that violate their conscience or with which they fundamentally disagree.

NIFLA, a national network of nearly 1,500 pro-life centers, has challenged the law on behalf of its more than 130 California members, through its attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom.

Americans shouldn’t be forced by the government to promote messages that violate their conscience or with which they fundamentally disagree. In this case, the state of California is using its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion. It is using the walls of pro-life pregnancy centers as billboards to advertise abortions to the centers’ clients.

What if the government passed a law that forced the American Lung Association to promote cigarettes? What if the government mandated that Alcoholics Anonymous post a sign in their facilities advising their clients on the location of the closest liquor store? That wouldn’t be right, and neither is California’s law.

NIFLA has challenged this law on First Amendment free-speech grounds. Freedom of speech includes the freedom not to be compelled by the government to speak a message that violates one’s conscience. That’s the heart and soul of the First Amendment, and all Americans who value freedom should want the Supreme Court to affirm it.

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