Pro-Life Centers Have Free Speech, Too

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It's a question before the Supreme Court, with justices hearing oral arguments in a case that pits the state of California, which offers state-funded abortions, against the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA). Above, a center in San Francisco. That is exactly what the First Amendment is supposed to forbid.

If a "pro-life state can tell a doctor you have to tell people about adoption, why can't a pro-choice state tell a doctor, a facility. you have to tell people about abortion?"

'Reasonable licensing' or government interference?

The case comes after California passed the Reproductive Fact Act in 2015, which mandates that licensed clinics providing ultrasounds, pregnancy tests and other services must also provide information about abortion. The plaintiffs had told the lower courts that they would not comply with the law. Centers that are licensed by the state must tell clients about the availability of contraception, abortion and pre-natal care, at little or no cost.

Broadly speaking, California's law has two relevant parts. The court has a 5-4 conservative majority. The Alliance Defending Freedom is the same group behind the Supreme Court challenge brought by the Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for the marriage of a same-sex couple. But local pro-lifers are also standing up for free speech in a way that affects all of us, no matter what we believe about abortion.

Michael P. Farris, a lawyer for the centers, said the law violated their right to free speech by forcing them to convey messages at odds with their beliefs.

Saying the law "unquestionably" compels speech, is content-based and viewpoint-discriminatory, the nonprofit argues the court should give it the closest level of scrutiny.

"This court's compelled speech precedents do not bar the state from requiring such non-ideological statements of fact, delivered in a context featuring pervasive government mandated notices that patients do not attribute to any clinic or physician and in a manner which will not interfere with or burden any clinic's own advocacy", the brief states. Violators are liable for a civil penalty of up to $500. These fake medical centers deliberately target low-income people in part because they know that we as a society turn a blind eye to substandard care received by people who can't afford quality care.

"It targets speakers with a particular viewpoint and forces them to advance the State's viewpoint-biased message", Farris said, adding, "this the government can not do".

In the AMA Journal of Ethics, a recent article entitled "Why Crisis Pregnancy Centers are Legal but Unethical", Drs.

"The First Amendment does not bar states", Becerra writes in court papers, from such a "carefully neutral" notice.

Pro-lifers worry that California's law represents a slippery slope that, pending the Supreme Court's ruling, could easily result in the infringement upon the free speech rights of other groups.

The centers present themselves as assisting and advising women with unplanned pregnancies, but try to convince them not to go through with abortions. "In fact, the clinics don't make abortions and contraceptive coverage available". The center filed an amicus, or "friend of the court", brief in the Supreme Court on behalf of members of Congress who are backing California.

Cherisse Scott, for instance, declared that when she lived in Chicago she found an advertisement in the phone book for a clinic that said, "Need abortion?"

"We should not politicize the practice of medicine in that way", Farris said.

The Trump administration takes a middle ground in the case.

But he argues that the justices can uphold the provision aimed at unlicensed centers because they constitute a requirement to simply provide "accurate, uncontroversial" facts about their services. Recruited by third-year law student Steven Obiajulu, and ably coordinated by second-year student Grant Newman, they included fellow second-years Ryan Proctor and Asher Perez and a diverse group of others, including some first-year students who prefer to remain anonymous. "But people opposed to abortion face such pressure now in California".

A ruling striking down the law could doom similar laws in Hawaii and IL, and also call into question laws in other states that seek to regulate doctors' speech.

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