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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,907
March 8, 2018
Should Pro-Life Centers Promote Abortion?
By Mike McManus

On March 20 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a peculiar debate: Should pro-life centers created to persuade pregnant women to keep their baby - be required to advertise that abortions are provided by the state for free?

California passed a law called the "Reproductive FACT Act" that specifies that more than 100 privately funded pro-life pregnancy centers must post a sign directing their clients to a taxpayer-funded abortion clinics. What's more, any print or on-line advertisements by pro-life centers must include the state's notice in English and 11 other languages including Chinese!

It is a "horrendous violation of the free speech rights of pro-life pregnancy centers," said Thomas Glessner, president and founder of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) which filed the suit against the State of California, joined by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

"This law compels pro-life centers to violate their consciences and promote abortion. As such it cannot and will not stand," Glessner added.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals - the nation's most reversed court - upheld the law, which is now being appealed to the Supreme Court. However, in 2016, Riverside Superior Court Justice Gloria Trask granted a temporary injunction on grounds the law violates California's "freedom of mind" guarantee as stated in California's 1849 Declaration of Rights.

Trask asserted, "The State can deliver its message without infringing upon anyone's liberty. It may purchase television advertisements as it does to encourage Californians to sign up for Covered California or to conserve water. It may purchase billboard space and post its message directly in front of Scharpen Foundation's center. In this case, however virtuous the State's ends, they do not justify the means."

In addition to the law' specific demands of pro-life centers to offer free ultrasounds, the statute also requires 100 non-medical pro-life pregnancy centers to post signage proclaiming themselves as such.

Similar measures have been struck down as unconstitutional infringements of free speech across the country. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2014 decision, derided a comparable New York City ordinance, calling it "a bureaucrat's dream" with "a deliberately ambiguous set of standards guiding the application."

At NIFLA's challenge before the Ninth Circuit of Appeals in 2016, the legal counsel for California's Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, was unable to say which authorities in the state, counties and cities would be responsible for enforcing the law.

In fact, the only city in the state which attempted to enforce the law was Los Angeles where City Attorney Mike Fener tried to apply the law against three prolife centers.

However, California's law was a model for a similar 2017 mandate in Hawaii that NIFLA and ADF are also challenging in court. Abortion advocates have failed in similar efforts to combat pro-life centers in Austin, TX and Montgomery County, MD - where taxpayers were forced to pay more than $330,000 in lawyer's fees after LifeSiteNews reported an unethical collusion between city officials collaborating with the pro-abortion group, NARAL Pro-Choice America.

There are laws requiring pro-lifers to post signs deterring women from their services in Oakland, San Francisco, and Hartford, CT. The Supreme Court's decision is likely to affect all of these laws, as well as Hawaii and Illinois.

The California law being challenged specifies that there must be posted as a public notice in "22 point type" or in a paper "distributed to all clients in no less than 14-point font" at time of check-in or arrival, to all pregnancy help medical clinics licensed by the state with these words:

"California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care and abortion for eligible women."

If the pro-life centers do not offer medical services, there must be huge signs "in the entrance to the facility" and an additional sign where clients wait to receive services, written "in no less than 48-point type" these words:

THIS FACILITY IS NOT LICENSED AS A MEDICAL FACILITY IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA AND HAS NO LICENSED MEDICAL PROVIDER WHO PROVIDES OR DIRECTLY SUPERVISES THE PROVISION OF SERVICES." (Caps added for emphasis.)

No wonder the pro-life pregnancy medical centers which exist to provide alternatives to abortion - see the law forcing them to advertise the state's free abortion - as a direct threat to their First Amendment freedoms of speech and free exercise of religion.

I predict the Supreme Court will uphold their freedom of speech and religion.
___________________________________

Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous columns go to  www.ethicsandreligion.org. Hit Search for any topic.

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