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Calif. law forces pro-life centers to promote abortion, ADF files suit

Compelled speech law violates free speech rights, should be struck down like unlawful statutes in other states

Tuesday, Oct 13, 2015

Attorney sound bites:  Matt Bowman  |  Elissa Graves

SAN DIEGO – Alliance Defending Freedom filed a complaint Tuesday in federal court against the state of California for passing an unconstitutional law that forces pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion.

The state law requires licensed medical centers that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. The disclosure must also include a phone number for these services, and it forces unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures about their non-medical status in all advertisements, even if they provide no medical services. Courts have struck down similar laws in Texas, Maryland, and New York.

“A government that tells you what you can’t say is dangerous, but a government that tells you what you must say – under threat of severe punishment – is terrifying,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “Pregnancy centers, which offer real help and hope to women, shouldn’t be punished by political allies of the abortion industry. Forcing pro-life centers to promote abortion and recite the government’s messages is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms. Courts around the country have already rightly struck down these types of laws.”

ADF-allied attorney Dean R. Broyles of The National Center for Law and Policy is co-counsel in the lawsuit, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Harris.

The California law “imposes government compelled speech upon the pregnancy centers due to their support for pregnant women, and in ways that undermine the centers’ messages,” the complaint explains. “The Act is therefore unconstitutional under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

“The law is also impermissibly vague…[and] violates federal statutory law…that protects licensed health care entities from being required to refer for abortion or make arrangements for such referrals,” the complaint adds.

“For years, abortionists have preyed on women and girls to generate profits,” added ADF Litigation Counsel Elissa Graves. “Now, pro-abortion politicians are trying to give women fewer choices by requiring pregnancy center employees, under threat of punitive fines, to promote and refer women for abortions. This legislation runs roughshod over the freedom of speech and conscience guaranteed to all Californians and all Americans.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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