Saturday, 21 April, 2018

" "Home " Nation " Supreme Court examines freedom of speech at crisis pregnancy centers

Free Speech and Abortion Collide Supreme Court Hears One of Its Biggest Cases of 2018 The Abortion Exception
Patty Aguilar | 22 March, 2018, 02:34

"Our values as Catholics compel us to support the 'Fact Act.' This is common sense legislation that is about truth-telling and transparency", he added.

But during Tuesday's argument, most of the justices took sharp issue with all or parts of the California law.

Demonstrators rally outside as the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the abortion case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, in Washington, U.S. March 20, 2018.

In 2015, the State of California passed a law mandating that all pregnancy centers post information in their facilities that "California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-priced access to comprehensive family planning services, prenatal care and abortion for eligible women".

"This law is created to protect low-income pregnant women who need to make an important, life changing decision in a time-sensitive manner", Brianne Gorod, chief counsel for the progressive group Constitutional Accountability Center, said during a panel about the case the week before opening arguments. In response, the state enacted a law that has two provisions.

The state law requires licensed centers, which provide procedures like pregnancy tests and ultrasound examinations, to post contact information for free and subsidized abortion and contraceptive services.

While commercial speech - such as the ingredients listed on labels of commercially sold food items - can be regulated by the government, the regulation of professional speech - the conversations that take place between a professional and their client - has never been directly ruled on by the Supreme Court.

Second, the California law forces the non-medical pro-life centers to include large-print disclaimers in up to 13 different languages in all their digital and print ads. A Slate analysis indicated that a ruling against California may "lead to the invalidation of anti-abortion counseling laws across the country on similar First Amendment grounds".

Moreover, the treatment of religion in the oral arguments could relate to the First Amendment considerations in another major case the high court will rule on this year: Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Lawsuits were filed immediately against the State of California arguing that the issue is not abortion, but free speech. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the California law. The most likely outcome is a fairly narrow decision targeting aspects of this particular state law. It also requires unlicensed facilities that may have no medical provider on staff to disclose that fact. He cited a hypothetical example of a billboard in Los Angeles with the words "Choose Life".

Klein said this explains the exemptions to the disclosure requirements for private doctors and other facilities that typically do not offer free services. That one-sentence disclosure is also required in advertisements.

My sense was that numerous justices seem to be leaning against the law. Farris said that, too, would be unconstitutional. Conservative Justice Samuel Alito piled on, pointing to an amicus brief which claims that 98 percent of the clinics covered by this law are "pro life" (though, in fairness, Klein disagreed with this figure).

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"This case won't stop (crisis pregnancy centers) from trying to persuade women against having an abortion, and it won't stop pro-choice activists from working to shut them down".

Should the state of California be allowed to force non-profit, often Christian, pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion centers?

Is this notification an acceptable form of government-regulated speech-ensuring the public access to medical services-or a First Amendment violation?

"These centers embody the reality that we are the ones who want to love them both, if you will".

Glen Northern, Domestic Program Director, of Catholics for Choice was there to support California's law.

California and abortions rights groups that backed the law say its goal is to give pregnant women complete and accurate information.

"What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander", he said.

The case being argued Tuesday involves information required by a state law that the centers must provide clients about the availability of contraception, abortion and pre-natal care, at little or no cost.

The ERLC joined the National Association of Evangelicals, Concerned Women for America, National Legal Foundation and Samaritan's Purse in a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the pregnancy centers. Whether you "shout your abortion", advocate for it to be "free and plentiful", tolerate it as an option that should be "safe, legal and rare", or stand outside Planned Parenthood facilities imploring mothers to choose life, you (implicitly or explicitly) hold one of these views.

The broader question, of whether the Supreme Court will offer sweeping protection to anti-abortion speakers - and far weaker protections to pro-abortion speakers - could remain unresolved until a future case.

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