The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rebuked the state of California on Friday for violating the rights of crisis pregnancy centers under the now-defunct Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act, or FACT Act.
The law, which the Supreme Court overturned last summer with its decision in NIFLA v. Becerra, forced pregnancy centers to post notices informing patients of the availability of abortion services elsewhere. Multiple pregnancy resource centers said the state hit them with fines after they refused to refer women to abortion facilities or advertise for them.
The HHS Office for Civil Rights said the law violated amendments that bar state and local governments that receive certain federal funds from discriminating against healthcare entities that don’t perform or refer people for abortions. The office’s finding adds another layer of protection for crisis pregnancy centers on top of the Supreme Court decision, and it puts states on notice that similar pro-abortion attempts to limit free speech won’t be tolerated.
“Our violation finding underscores not only that California must follow the Constitution, but that it also must respect federal conscience protection laws when it accepts federal funds,” said Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights. —Lynde Langdon