The U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week in favor of California pro-life pregnancy centers was a free speech win not only for pregnancy center workers, but also for everyone in a professional setting.
In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, attorneys with the pro-life legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) argued that California’s requirement that pregnancy centers post notices telling women where to get a state-funded abortion was government-coerced speech. Five out of nine justices agreed with them.
The ruling also applies to three other identical pending cases filed in California by pro-life groups Liberty Counsel, the American Center for Law and Justice, and the Pacific Justice Institute.
Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel said the Supreme Court opinion was a matter of “life and death,” since the obtrusive pro-abortion disclosure required by the California law would have overwhelmed any pro-life literature.
“You would have just a few words on the front of a brochure and pages and pages of a brochure with these 13 languages, 29 words, 48-point font size,” Staver said. “The message required the crisis pregnancy centers to promote abortion, and even provide the telephone number for low cost or free abortion centers.”
If the Supreme Court had ruled the other way, other states likely would have followed California’s example. While similar laws have already been struck down in states such as Maryland, Illinois, Texas, and New York, Hawaii enacted a similar law last year that still stands.
A Place for Women, a pro-life pregnancy center in Waipio, Hawaii, filed suit against the state law last year with the help of ADF. Legal counsel Elissa Graves told me that Hawaii pregnancy centers are “very excited” about last week’s Supreme Court ruling, “thinking they will not have to engage in this compelled speech.”
Graves said ADF planned to ask a court to block the Hawaii law, and is hopeful for success, based on the precedent set by the recent Supreme Court ruling.
The ruling may also apply to future cases regarding “professional speech,” even as California seeks to ban therapy for those struggling with same-sex attraction.
California argued that the workers in pregnancy centers should be relegated to “professional speech,” a category of speech it said should be much narrower. The Supreme Court disagreed.
Staver said the case could have a huge effect not just on crisis pregnancy centers but on “all of the laws that seek to ban counsel for people seeking to overcome or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, or identity.”