(CNSNews.com) – The California State Assembly passed legislation Tuesday that would require licensed pregnancy centers to post a message providing contact information for low-cost contraception and abortion.
The Reproductive FACT Act, which passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly by a vote of 49-26 right along party lines, would require 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].”
The stated purpose of the bill is “to ensure that California residents make their personal reproductive health care decisions knowing their rights and the health care services available to them.”
Assembly member David Chiu (D-San Francisco), the bill’s primary author, argues 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.”
However, the legislation has been dubbed “the bully bill” by its pro-life opponents who argue that the bill forces pro-life pregnancy centers to violate their conscience rights by participating in an abortion referral.
“Every woman should have all the information she needs to care for herself and her family during an unexpected pregnancy,” said Jor-El Godsey, vice president of Heartbeat International, a pregnancy help organization with 63 affiliates in California.
"The issue with this bill is that it does -- despite its authors’ assertions to the contrary -- trample on the First Amendment rights of locally funded grassroots organizations, while forcing these organizations to effectively refer for abortions,” he explained.
The bill faced Republican opposition on the assembly floor. Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) and Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) were among the many who spoke out against the legislation.
“We should trust women to make their own choices, and this bill prevents that,” Assemblywoman Olsen said. “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.
“AB 775 is an effort to force objectionable, state-mandated speech on pro-life pregnancy care centers which have freely formed in order to compassionately present alternative views; views which are rightly protected by our Constitution – views contrary to those of the authors and supporters of this bill,” Assemblyman Patterson said in a statement following the bill’s passage.
“Two of my adopted children and all three of my grandchildren are the living witnesses of the profound and life-affirming options these centers provide. Privately-funded Pregnancy Resource Centers, and the compassionate people who volunteer at them, have a First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech. And it is our duty as officers of the state of California to protect that right, not to assault it,” he said.
“Republicans and Democrats ought to agree at least upon this,” he added, “ unconstitutional, government-imposed speech upon the views of the minority is wrong.”
The bill is now headed to the California State Senate where it can be heard in committee as early as June 8th.