Appeals court rules pregnancy centers must promote abortion
Abortion | California pro-lifers lose appeal but vow to continue fighting the law
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 10/14/16, 06:02 pm
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday to uphold a California law that would force pregnancy resource centers to promote abortion or pay a steep penalty.
Pro-life advocates and California pregnancy resource centers have challenged the Reproductive FACT Act in court multiple times since California Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law last October and have lost each time.
“The Reproductive FACT Act forces pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics to violate consciences, free speech, and religious beliefs,” said Thomas Glessner, president of the plaintiff organization Institute for Family and Life Advocates. “This violation of the foundational roots of the American republic will not stand. This battle is far from over.”
The law requires pregnancy resource centers to provide clients with a statement about state-funded contraception and abortions and the phone number of a county social service office providing abortions.
Disobedience of the law brings a $500 penalty for a first offense and $1,000 “for each subsequent offense.”
Though the law is largely unenforced, a Los Angeles city attorney filed suit to fine Pregnancy Counseling Center in Los Angeles $2,500 every day it refused to post the statement. The clinic eventually caved and printed it on 14-point font on its literature.
Some pro-life clinics have won similar cases against them. In Baltimore, Md. a federal judge ruled in October against a pro-abortion city ordinance. The ordinance required crisis pregnancy centers to post signs advertising that they don’t refer women for abortions.
A different federal judge ruled in 2014 against an Austin city law that required crisis pregnancy centers to post signs saying they do not provide abortions and said enforcers could act an “arbitrary or discriminatory manner” against pro-life groups.
The clash between pro-life clinics and pro-abortion legislation is far from over. An Illinois law almost identical to the California law is set to go into effect Jan. 1 and would force medical clinics, regardless of their stances on abortion, to refer clients to abortion providers if abortion “is contrary to the conscience of the healthcare facility, physician, or healthcare personnel.”
Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, decried the Illinois law last month and urged his organization’s 49 Illinois affiliates to refuse to comply.
He also spoke out against California’s ruling Friday, saying, “The refusal of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn this wicked law sets a dangerous precedent for anyone who would speak an unpopular message in our society.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom’s Matthew Bowman also issued a statement that warned of a countermove on behalf of his clients.
“Forcing these centers to promote abortion and recite the government’s preferred views is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms,” he said. “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.”
Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.