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Pro-life centers to Supreme Court: Don't allow govt to force us to advertise for abortion

Government-compelled speech central issue in opening brief filed with high court

Monday, Jan 8, 2018

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WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed their opening brief Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court in a lawsuit challenging a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy care centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. ADF represents a pro-life pregnancy care center network, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, and two independent centers in the case, which in November the high court agreed to take up.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a federal district judge’s decision to allow the law to remain in effect while the lawsuit, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, proceeds. The brief asks the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling, halt the law, and affirm that forcing the centers to provide the free advertising contrary to their core mission is a violation of their constitutionally protected freedoms.

“No one should be forced to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. This is particularly true when the ones who are being forced to provide it are pro-life pregnancy care centers,” said ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris, who will argue the case before the high court. “Compelled speech strikes at the very heart of constitutionally protected liberties, which are most at risk when speakers are targeted by government officials who disagree with their thoughts and ideas. Targeting people who disagree with the government is exactly what the California law does.”

California’s Reproductive FACT Act, AB 775, 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 a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry. The law also forces unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures in multiple languages about their non-medical status in all advertisements, which obscure and crowd out their pro-life speech. Other courts have invalidated or mostly invalidated similar laws in Austin, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore; and New York City.

According to the opening brief filed with the Supreme Court, “This Court has long held that compelled speech is highly disfavored because it imperils freedom by giving government control of the voices of private actors—and that laws targeting particular speakers because of their views are especially dangerous. The government ‘may not substitute its judgment as to how best to speak for that of speakers and listeners; free and robust debate cannot thrive if directed by the government….’ This Court should continue its steadfast defense of this fundamental freedom against governmental attempts to compel speech, and reverse the judgment of the Ninth Circuit.”

“These non-profit pregnancy centers exist to encourage expectant mothers to give their children the opportunity for life,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of the U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner. “The last thing the centers should be forced to do is point these women to the abortion industry.”

“National Institute of Family and Life Advocates member centers exist to empower a mother’s choice of life. They do this by providing assistance and resources free of charge—often in the form of pre-natal vitamins, baby clothes, and ultrasounds,” added NIFLA President and Founder Thomas Glessner, J.D. “All of their speech is designed to further this goal. California’s law purposely hampers this right from the beginning of a pregnancy center’s interaction with expectant mothers.”

“The legislative record demonstrates that the State chose to mandate these compelled messages precisely because of the pregnancy centers’ pro-life views,” the opening brief explains. “The legislative committee report described the centers’ messages as ‘unfortunate’ because they ‘aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions….’ The Legislature created exceptions within the Act, seeking to ensure it applies only to centers that express this disfavored view. Such government targeting of viewpoints runs afoul of this Court’s cases ‘establish[ing] that the State cannot advance some points of view by burdening the expression of others.’”

ADF-allied attorney John Eastman of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, Anne O’Connor of NIFLA, and Dean R. Broyles of The National Center for Law and Policy are co-counsel in the lawsuit on behalf of NIFLA and the two pregnancy centers.

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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