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Supreme Court Considers Calif. Law that Forces Pro-Life Centers to Promote Abortion

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would take up the abortion case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Xavier Becerra. NIFLA is challenging a California law forcing pro-life clinics to advertise for abortion. The organization's president is optimistic the Court will side with free speech against California, and this will have nation-wide consequences.

"SCOTUS has ruled in favor of free speech on flag burning and other issues where government preference for speech is in conflict with private citizen desire for speech. We are confident these precedents will ensure a favorable decision," NIFLA President and CEO Tom Glessner told PJ Media Monday.

Glessner opposes the Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency) Act. The act mandates that any facility that provides care to pregnant women — from ultrasounds and prenatal care to counseling about contraception or even pregnancy testing — is required to post the following notice (emphasis added):

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. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number].

The bill became law in October 2015 and mandates fines of $500 for the first offense after 30 days, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. Every Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC) must post the notice or face government censorship.

"In essence, the law mandates that pro-life centers become abortion referral agencies, totally against their convictions, against their foundational beliefs, compelling speech," Glessner told PJ Media in February.

Implications in this case extend far beyond the state of California. "Laws similar to the so-called 'FACT Act' have popped up in New York, Montgomery County and Baltimore in Maryland, Austin, Illinois, and Hawaii," Glessner told PJ Media on Monday.

"We and our pro-life allies have beaten back these laws," the NIFLA president added. "A state court ruled in favor of centers in Illinois (we are suing to a federal court), and the Hawaii law is even more egregious than the California law because there is a pro-lfe center in a church. Thus, the state is forcing a church-facilitated organization to speak a certain message."

Glessner noted that the Court's final decision "will have nationwide ramifications."

Pro-abortion advocates claim that laws like the FACT Act provide essential information about programs to help pregnant women in need. In Court documents, the State of California claimed that more than half of all pregnancies in the state are unintended.

While the state has an interest in letting pregnant women know the programs that might help them, it does not have the ability to force pro-life centers to effectively endorse abortion by advertising for it. The state need only amend the law to remove any stipulation about rights or coverage related to abortion.