Pro-Life California Pregnancy Centers Must Provide Abortion Information or Face Fines

By Lauretta Brown | January 4, 2016 | 7:32 PM EST
The federal courthouse in Sacramento, California. (Photo: uscourts.gov)

(CNSNews.com) – Pro-life pregnancy centers in California must choose between providing abortion information or paying fines.

They face that dilemma after California judges denied multiple requests for preliminary injunctions against a law that went into effect January 1, mandating that all licensed pregnancy centers “disseminate to clients” a message promoting public programs with “free or low-cost access” to abortion and contraceptive services.

Pregnancy centers that fail to disseminate this message “are liable for a civil penalty of five hundred dollars ($500) for a first offense and one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each subsequent offense.” 

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) and the Pacific Justice Institute both filed lawsuits on behalf of six pregnancy centers following Governor Jerry Brown’s signing of the law in October.

Arguing that the law violates their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion, the clinics sought preliminary and permanent injunctions against the law. The requests for preliminary injunctions were denied in the past couple of weeks.

The Pacific Justice Institute’s request for injunction was denied on December 21 by U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller in Sacramento.

“Though the public interest favors upholding the First Amendment, the public interest also favors ensuring California women are fully informed as to their reproductive healthcare options,” Mueller argued. She also ruled the centers’ free speech claim was not likely to succeed in court.

“Judge Mueller determined that the interests of the clinics in refusing to promote abortion were outweighed by the interests of the State to ensure women receive information about all their options,” the Pacific Justice Institute said in a statement.

"This ruling should alarm everyone who believes in a robust First Amendment," said institute president Brad Dacus.  "The notion that the government can compel religious non-profits to promote practices antithetical to their values is chilling."

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland also denied a request for a preliminary injunction sought by the ACLJ on behalf of three other crisis pregnancy centers – Livingwell Medical Clinic in Grass Valley, Pregnancy Care Center of the North Coast in Eureka, and Confidence Pregnancy Center in Salinas.

White argued that the abortion notices offer “only factual and incontrovertibly true information about the range of pregnancy-related health services available,” and “do not include language endorsing or recommending such services.”

The request was again denied on December 30 by a panel of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges who “said the clinics were unlikely to prevail in their appeal of a federal judge’s ruling allowing the law to take effect,” the news website SFGate reported.