California Governor Jerry Brown (D)
(CNSNews.com) – Gov. Jerry Brown (D.-Calif.) signed a law on Friday mandating that all licensed pregnancy centers in the state “disseminate to clients” a message promoting public programs with “free or low-cost access” to abortion and contraceptive services.
The new law makes no exception for pro-life and faith-based crisis pregnancy centers.
Critics of the law say that it violates the right to freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment.
AB 775, known in the state legislature as The Reproductive FACT Act, requires all pregnancy centers that are licensed as clinics to post the following notice:
“California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number].”
According to the legislation, 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.”
Assembly member David Chiu (D-San Francisco), the bill’s primary author, argued in the legislature that "a growing and alarming movement is working to mislead women in order to achieve their political ideology. We have a responsibility as lawmakers to make sure that the information given to women who are making their own healthcare decisions is accurate and timely.”
NARAL President Ilyse Hogue celebrated the bill’s passage in a statement on Friday.
"Anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers are ground-zero in the fight for reproductive freedom,” she said, “and Gov. Brown and the California legislature can be proud of leading the first successful statewide effort to ensure that no woman is tricked into walking through doors of a CPC [crisis pregnancy center] to be manipulated and shamed again.”
However, the legislation was dubbed “the bully bill” by its pro-life opponents who argued that the bill forces pro-life pregnancy centers to violate their conscience rights by participating in an abortion referral.
"Does the government have a right to tell a newspaper what to write, a preacher what to preach, a private school what to teach? Of course not,” said Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) in a statement following the bill’s passage in the State Assembly.
“So why is it okay for the government to force pro-life pregnancy centers against their will to advertise and promote government abortion services?” she asked.
“Democrat legislators claimed this is necessary because the information provided by prolife pregnancy care centers is not, ‘fully-informed,’” said Grove. “So, according to this logic, if the government finds that your message isn’t ‘fully-informed,’ it now has a right to compel you to do and say things you do not believe in. The founding fathers would be rolling over in their graves.”
“We should trust women to make their own choices, and this bill prevents that,” Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) also said in opposition to the bill. “Women choose to seek assistance from these pregnancy centers. Nobody forces them to go, nobody forces them to stay. They choose to go and they have the option to leave at any time.”
“AB 775 sets a bad precedent by allowing the state -- a government entity -- to dictate what information a non-profit organization -- a non-profit that receives not a dime of state or government funding -- has to provide to their clients,” she concluded.