On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a massive victory for the pro-life movement. They blocked a terrible California law that required pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise programs to obtain a free or low-cost abortion.
In the case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, a 5-4 ruling sent the case back to a lower court to be reconsidered.
The Supreme Court said they believed the law would be overturned in light of their findings. “We hold that petitioners are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the FACT Act violates the First Amendment," said the SCOTUS.
This contradicts an earlier ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to block the law while it was being reviewed. They said the case was unlikely to succeed on its merits. The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit Court's decision, saying they were wrong to "treat the speech of pregnancy centers as a lesser category of free speech simply because it is 'professional speech.'"
The law that was blocked, California’s “Reproductive FACT Act,” requires pregnancy centers that do not perform abortions to display a notice informing patients about California programs that provide low-cost or free abortions to eligible women. The notice must include a phone number for an office that would refer women to a Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers.
The law also requires centers that perform non-medical services, such as centers that distribute free maternity clothing or baby items, must display a notice explaining that it is not licensed as a medical facility in the state of California. That's an attack on pro-life centers as there is no current licensing scheme in the state of California for non-medical facilities who distribute baby supplies.
The law was passed in 2015 because it ruled that pro-life centers used “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices” that confuse and misinform women and intimidate them “from making fully-informed, time-sensitive decisions about critical health care.” In other words, they decided that pro-life centers encouraged woman not to chose abortion.
NIFLA, a group that works with pro-life pregnancy centers, filed suit shortly afterwards. They argued that the law constitutes viewpoint discrimination and illegal government infringement upon the right to free speech.
“Forcing anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry is unthinkable – especially when it’s the government doing the forcing,” said Kevin Theriot, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.
He continued, “This is even more true when it comes to pregnancy care centers, which exist specifically to care for women who want to have their babies.”
Pro-life pregnancy centers are often located near abortion facilities. They sometimes provide sonograms and other medical care for pregnant women, free of charge. They do not provide abortion services or abortion referrals, and counselors at these centers encourage a woman to continue her pregnancy.
Similar laws in Maryland, Texas, and New York have been struck down in courts as unconstitutional.
Pro-lifers from all over the nation are celebrating the victory in Washington. They see what a win this is for pregnancy centers, especially those located in California. It would have been a travesty for them to be forced to advertise abortion in the facilities.
However, as conservative commentator Matt Walsh pointed out, this decision was a close one. Four members of the Supreme Court still believe that pregnancy centers should be forced to advertise abortions.
Praise the Lord for this victory! May we see more positive decisions from the Supreme Court. They just handed down a decision on President Trump's travel ban.