November 14, 2017
Groups like NARAL say that all they want from pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) is "disclosure." But let's be honest. The real goal is just closure. And you have to hand it to abortion activists -- they've gotten pretty creative in their strategies to beat back those who give women the true choice of choosing life. With the help of local leaders across the country, the anti-life Left has managed to pass a handful of laws putting the squeeze on PRCs and their right to operate by their beliefs. First, they tried to force the centers to post signs about the services they don't offer, in hopes of deterring more women from visiting. When courts struck down those ordinances in places like Baltimore, the abortion movement took a more aggressive approach.
In California, they managed to persuade lawmakers to pass a bill -- the Reproductive FACT Act -- ordering PRCs to provide referrals to abortion centers where, they argue, moms will get the "full range of care." Pro-lifers opposed the idea -- not only because it detracts from the positive alternatives to abortion, but because it violates these centers' freedoms of speech and religion!
"It's bad enough if the government tells you what you can't say," said Alliance Defending Freedom, who's representing the pro-life centers in court, "but a law that tells you what you must say -- under threat of severe punishment -- is even more unjust and dangerous. In this case, political allies of abortionists are seeking to punish pro-life pregnancy centers, which offer real hope and help to women. Forcing these centers to promote abortion and recite the government's preferred views is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms. That's why other courts around the country have halted these kinds of measures and why we will be discussing the possibility of appeal with our clients."
Unfortunately, those courts didn't include the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld California's stranglehold on PRCs' freedom. It's important to "[ensure] that its citizens have access to and adequate information about constitutionally-protected medical services like abortion," wrote Judge Dorothy Nelson. If "adequate information" is important, then what about the truth of abortion?
It's ironic. If anyone's in favor of full disclosure, it's the pro-life movement! Unlike the pro-abortion Left, these centers tell moms what Planned Parenthood won't: that there are ways of coping with unexpected pregnancies other than abortion. And unlike their competition, they don't have a financial stake in the outcome. Groups like Planned Parenthood are inventing "wars on women" to extort more money from taxpayers, while pregnancy resource centers are actually helping more than two million people every year. And unlike Planned Parenthood, they don't do it with billions of government dollars but charitable donations and the support of tens of thousands of volunteers.
The Second and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals tended to agree, siding with conservatives to strike down similar laws. Now, thanks to the split in decisions, the Supreme Court has decided to make the final call -- to the relief of pro-lifers. Conservatives have a lot riding on the case, but then, Slate argues, so do liberals. "If the justices vote to strike down the statute," worry Leftists, "abortion foes will celebrate the decision as a resounding victory for their cause. An eventual ruling against California, though, could also lead to the invalidation of anti-abortion counseling laws across the country on similar First Amendment grounds."
FRC's Travis Weber is anxious for the justices to vindicate PRCs. "The California FACT Act explicitly and overtly discriminates against pro-life views, placing onerous requirements (including posting multiple notices in up to thirteen different languages) on crisis pregnancy centers while excluding all sorts of other healthcare entities as long as they participate in the state's pro-abortion programs... The fact that the Ninth Circuit permitted this statute to stand further highlights the existence of the "abortion distortion" in our federal courts, which routinely twist the law to find ways to advance abortion and hamper pro-life views." No one should be compelled to speak a message against their beliefs -- not cake bakers and not pregnancy resource centers. Let's hope the Supreme Court agrees on both counts!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.