Supreme Court takes up challenge by crisis pregnancy centers

US Supreme Court

Local governments also have placed speech requirements on pro-life pregnancy centers, mandating they post signs, for instance, that say they do not provide abortions or contraceptives or make referrals for the services. If the state wins, however, those restrictions could be on safer ground. The state has told the Supreme Court that a primary goal for its law is to inform women who are pregnant about the availability of state-funded resources. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor referred to that portion as burdensome.

"When you put all this together, you get a very suspicious pattern", Alito said.

"The State can deliver its message without infringing upon anyone's liberty", Trask wrote. But many other clients come to the centers knowing they want to keep their babies, but need a little help.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the state's lawyer she found that troubling.

Alito voiced a different objection, that the law had been "gerrymandered" to apply nearly entirely to the antiabortion clinics while not requiring hospitals or private doctors to post the same notices.

He was joined by the Trump administration's Justice Department, whose attorney, Jeffrey Wall, said the state was requiring the clinics to make disclosures about "services ... that would violate their most deeply held beliefs, without any showing by the state that it truly needs to compel speech rather than speak its own message". "End the lies!" as they declared Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CLCs) to be "Fake Clinics". Not surprisingly, then, they encourage women to choose life for their children.

Yes, Farris said, "and in the number of languages required by that county".

Governments routinely behave badly, but sometimes their mean-spiritedness comes to the Supreme Court's attention.

A pro-life government's point in compelling the placement of this factual notice would be not just to inform women contemplating having an abortion but also to incline them against doing so.

Breyer said the same principle calls for upholding the California requirement.

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

"So if you're giving people advice about pregnancy when you are not a licensed facility, please explain to me what is both misleading, incorrect or suggestive in any way that a person has to do something like go to a doctor?"

Farris was ready with an answer. "Informed consent is triggered by a doctor proposing to perform a particular medical intervention", he said.

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. The disclaimers are created to prevent pro-life centers from even telling women that the centers exist, and the disclaimers wrongly imply that the centers should have a license - when that's just not true. Does it have to give the notice?

But she also concluded that the pregnancy centers' lawyers, including Jeffrey Wall, the deputy USA solicitor general who argued on behalf of the federal government, presented a strong case.

Some of the questions from liberal justices suggested they had one eye on future cases in which conservative states pass laws imposing restrictions on abortion clinics. Even worse, AB775 specifically targets these small non-profit organizations that exist to provide women with life-affirming information they may not otherwise receive. They sued, arguing the disclosure laws could turn them into "abortion referral services".

Michael Farris - representing the pregnancy centers - told the court California "took aim" at pro-life enters with a law directed at "disfavored" speech by "disfavored" speakers. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the California law. That is exactly what the First Amendment is supposed to forbid.

The Reproductive FACT Act requires licensed pregnancy centers to post a notice for clients that says, "California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-priced access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women". The court will also consider a second provision that requires clinics that are unlicensed to inform patients that they have "no licensed medical professional" on staff. But after hostile news coverage threatened the clinic's funding, she posted the mandated disclosure.

Lawyers for the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom represent the pregnancy centers.

Before oral arguments, NIFLA appeared to be a vehicle the Supreme Court could use to bring some coherence to its decisions governing free speech and abortion, which have become muddled in the wake of the Court's decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

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