The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a critical First Amendment challenge to a California law that forces life-affirming pregnancy centers to promote abortion.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) is a group that promotes life-affirming options to women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy by supporting more than 1,400 pregnancy resource centers across the country, including more than 100 in California alone.
NIFLA v. Becerra will be an incredibly important case for both free speech and the cause of life. Xavier Becerra is California’s state attorney general.
Under threat of ruinous fines, California’s so-called Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act, requires medically licensed pro-life pregnancy resource centers to instruct women on how to receive free or low-cost access to abortion via the state’s Medi-Cal program.
It also forces unlicensed pregnancy centers—even if they do not provide medical services—to post disclosures regarding their nonmedical status.
The law should alarm all Americans who believe in free speech and the freedom to provide compassionate care according to one’s conscience.
The FACT Act was pushed through the Legislature after the Center for Medical Progress released horrifying undercover videos in the summer of 2015.
Rather than investigate the abortion providers and a tissue procurement company shown in the videos discussing the unconscionable sale of baby body parts, California lawmakers instead targeted the Center for Medical Progress and life-affirming pregnancy centers.
As previously explained at The Daily Signal:
“According to the most recent available state-level data from 2011, California performed more abortions than any other state. Planned Parenthood’s former research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, reports that while 18 percent of pregnancies in America resulted in abortion that year, in California, 23 percent of pregnancies resulted in abortion.”
California has virtually no restrictions on abortion, such as waiting periods or parental consent requirements. The state is so abortion-friendly that it allows state tax dollars to pay for abortion services and requires employee health insurance plans—even church insurance plans—to cover elective abortions.
Faced with these sobering challenges, life-affirming pregnancy resource centers have nonetheless gone to great lengths to counter California’s pro-abortion culture and offer women alternatives. These organizations provide services, education, supplies, counseling, and compassionate options to women experiencing a tough pregnancy.
On Oct. 30, a California superior court judge ruled that the FACT Act violates the “freedom of mind” protection in the state’s 1949 Declaration of Rights, noting that “compelled speech of a political or cultural nature is not the tool of a free government.”
The Supreme Court will now have the opportunity to affirm that the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protects against compelled speech and to recognize that pro-life pregnancy centers shouldn’t have to contradict their mission of providing compassionate alternatives to abortion.
If you can’t force the American Lung Association to promote cigarettes and tell people where to buy them, you certainly can’t force pro-life organizations to direct people to taxpayer-subsidized free or reduced-price abortions.
Regardless of one’s opinion about abortion, the belief that people should be free from government telling them what to say in providing compassionate care to women experiencing a tough pregnancy shouldn’t be controversial.
Melanie Israel is a research associate for the DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.