Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Supreme Court to Decide if FACT Act Hacks Away at First Amendment

Should pro-life pregnancy-care centers be compelled to provide free advertising for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood? On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider this very question, which the case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra presents.

California lawmakers made their position on abortion abundantly clear when they passed a law called the “Reproductive FACT Act.” The law, which took effect in January 2016, targets pro-life pregnancy-care centers. Let’s be clear, no speculation or inference regarding the law’s intent is necessary; the state admitted targeting centers that “discourage” abortion. And they do so brazenly.

The law forces pregnancy-care centers to shill for the abortion industry by displaying an advertisement that advises women on how they can obtain an abortion from the state — complete with a phone number. Callers are referred to abortion giant Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities. This bears repeating: Under California law, private pro-life pregnancy-care centers are required to put signs on their walls promoting free or low-cost abortion and contraception services, and providing contact information for those abortion providers.

Forced to undermine their essential purpose

These pro-life centers, such as Pregnancy Care Clinic and other members of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, were founded to provide assistance to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Specifically, they offer pro-life information and resources, as well as practical medical or non-medical support that will support a woman’s choice to give birth. Accordingly, forcing these centers to promote abortion goes far beyond demanding that a business advertise for its competitors (though that alone would be absurd). This law requires the centers to promote services that are anathema to their core reason for existing.

Any analogies will sound absurd, but only because the reality defies reason. Consider a vegan restaurant forced to post fliers for Outback Steakhouse, or an Alcoholics Anonymous group required to promote a nearby bar’s happy hour. Should PETA be made to share information on how to obtain free or low-cost hunting licenses? Should the American Lung Association be compelled to advertise for cigarette manufacturers?

The obvious answer to these questions affirms the simple truth about this case: Pro-life pregnancy-care centers should not be forced to contradict their core message.

Free to speak, and free not to speak

The Supreme Court — and the First Amendment — have not been silent on the issue. In 1986, the Supreme Court held that a utility company couldn’t be forced to include in its billing envelope a message supplied by a public-interest group. Even though the message could have been added without increasing costs to the utility company, the court correctly noted that the right to free speech includes “the choice of what not to say.” For that reason, the company could not be required to spread a message with which it disagreed.

A more recent example comes from 2013, where the Supreme Court struck down a law that required groups receiving U.S. government funds for international HIV and AIDS work to adopt a policy explicitly opposing prostitution. In the opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts referred to the “basic First Amendment principle that freedom of speech prohibits the government from telling people what they must say,” adding that “[t]he government may not . . . compel the endorsement of ideas that it approves.”

The abortion business doesn’t need indentured spokespersons

Planned Parenthood receives more than $500 million each year in federal funding. The group boasts of more than $1.8 billion in total assets and, in fiscal year 2016, spent more than $25 million in branding and “advocacy capacity” alone. That same year, they performed 328,348 abortions. Suffice it to say, the business of abortion is set up to thrive (monetarily speaking).

In contrast, pregnancy-care centers are generally small nonprofits with limited funding and modest budgets. They offer their services free of charge (no abortion revenue to boost the budget) and seek only to come alongside expectant mothers and unborn children, helping both to thrive.

Abortion has already silenced enough voices. The abortion industry shouldn’t be allowed to force those that remain to promote its agenda.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Worst Cover-Up of All Time

President Donald Trump may be guilty of many things, but a cover-up in the Mueller probe isn’t one of them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attempting to appease forces in the Democratic party eager for impeachment, is accusing him of one, with all the familiar Watergate connotations. The charge is strange, ... Read More
World

Theresa May: A Political Obituary

On Friday, Theresa May, perhaps the worst Conservative prime minister in recent history, announced her resignation outside of number 10 Downing Street. She will step down effective June 7. “I have done my best,” she insisted. “I have done everything I can. . . . I believe it was right to persevere even ... Read More
PC Culture

TV Before PC

Affixing one’s glance to the rear-view mirror is usually as ill-advised as staring at one’s own reflection. Still, what a delight it was on Wednesday to see a fresh rendition of “Those Were the Days,” from All in the Family, a show I haven’t watched for nearly 40 years. This time it was Woody Harrelson ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Other Class War

There is a class war going on inside the Democratic party. Consider these two cris de couer: Writing in the New York Times under the headline “America’s Cities Are Unlivable — Blame Wealthy Liberals,” Farhad Manjoo argues that rich progressives have, through their political domination of cities such as ... Read More
Culture

The Deepfake of Nancy Pelosi

You’ve almost made it to a three-day weekend! Making the click-through worthwhile: A quick note about how National Review needs your help, concerns about “deepfakes” of Nancy Pelosi, one of the most cringe-inducing radio interviews of all time, some news about where to find me and the book in the near ... Read More
White House

For Democrats, the Party’s Over

If the Democrats are really tempted by impeachment, bring it on. Since the day after the 2016 election they have been threatening this, placing their chips on the Russian-collusion fantasy and then on the phantasmagoric charade of obstruction of justice. The attorney general accurately gave the ingredients of the ... Read More