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Supreme Court Protects First Amendment for Pro-Lifers

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court issued its decision in NIFLA v. Becerra, ruling that a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to issue various notices to clients was unconstitutional.  We applaud this decision, which upholds the First Amendment rights of some of the most important pro-life advocates in our movement.

This decision resolves a lawsuit that was filed by the National Institute for Family Life Advocates (NIFLA), which represents California’s pro-life pregnancy centers, against the State of California and its attorney general, Xavier Becerra.  It centered on a law passed by the California Legislature in 2015, the Reproductive FACT Act.

What did the law do?  It imposed two requirements on two different kinds of pro-life entities.  Pregnancy resource clinics, which are licensed medical clinics that offer medical services like ultrasounds and certified pregnancy tests, were required to post a notice letting patients know where they could go to obtain a low- or no-cost abortion.  This notice would have to be in multiple languages, and provided either in a notice posted in the waiting room, in packets given to new patients, or in an online patient portal.

Non-medical pregnancy resource centers, which offer informational resources and over-the-counter pregnancy tests, were required to post a government-drafted notice saying, “This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.”  This notice had to be provided on site and in all advertising materials.  The onsite notice had to be typed in 48-point font.  All of these notices would have to be in multiple languages.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, held that both of these prohibitions were unconstitutional burdens on these pro-life facilities’ right to free speech under the First Amendment.  The court held that these were acts of compelled speech motivated by a state animus against a certain viewpoint on the question of abortion.  Just as the government may not censor speech with which it disagrees, the First Amendment prohibits the government from mandating private persons to say things with which they do not agree.  As a result, this law is now struck down, and pregnancy resource clinics do not have to post these notices anymore.

Locally, we at Right to Life encouraged our Valley Members of Congress to sign an amicus curiae brief urging the Supreme Court to reach this precise outcome.  Reps. Devin Nunes and David Valadao both signed a brief joined by over 100 members of the House and Senate urging the Court to strike down this law as unconstitutional.

We at Right to Life of Central California applaud this tremendous decision by the Supreme Court upholding our First Amendment rights, and remain committed to helping advance the work of pregnancy resource clinics in our region.