NIFLA v. Becerra: Pregnancy Centers Fight For Freedom Of Speech Before Supreme Court

/ National

In 2015, the state of California passed “The Reproductive FACT Act” which requires pro-life pregnancy centers to not only advertise abortion but also provide information on how to access one. Inherently, pregnancy centers exist to give women the option to not abort their preborn children.

Since pregnancy centers tend to be privately-owned non-profits, this law would require private citizens to deliver a state-approved message. The danger here lies in the violation of free speech; taking away a private company’s right to advocate for something other than an unfortunate societal norm.

What these centers stand for is being challenged and thankfully fought back against. Thousands of babies are saved by the care crisis centers provide, and to do what this law requires would be a grave impact upon these numbers. This case will shine light upon the idea of a forced form of speech — as is a violation of constitutional rights — and how to fight against such prejudices.

There is little doubt this violation of basic constitutional rights will be clearly seen and combating it is a must. Defense for crisis centers is a defense for children and mothers, as with this families are saved and recipients of these centers are forever grateful for their children and the aid provided. Whether it be financial, medical, or with basic needs for both the child and mother, all will be provided. And most importantly, a hope for the future.

Currently, a challenge to the law is being heard at the Supreme Court where counsel for the pro-life pregnancy centers are arguing the law is a violation of the First Amendment.

Crisis centers exist to offer women options less violent and psychologically-damaging than abortion. This bill would be extremely counterproductive — not to mention counter-reproductive.

More harm than good is to be found here, and the defense of freedom to not engage in this advertising of abortion is a right deserving of protection and preservation. This is simply not what these centers stand for, and it never will be — nor should it.

The case of National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) versus Becerra came to the Supreme Court in late 2017, but was formally argued in 2018.

The complaint states:

“Plaintiffs are a national non-profit pro-life membership organization with 111 affiliates in California, and two of those affiliates in San Diego County. They seek to provide help and pro-life information to women in unplanned pregnancies so that they will be supported in choosing to give birth, and practical medical or non-medical support free of charge in support of Plaintiffs’ pro-life viewpoint. The Act, however, imposes government compelled speech upon the Plaintiff pregnancy centers due to their support for pregnant women, and in ways that undermine the centers’ messages.”

The law is an attack on the First Amendment rights of pro-life advocates as it forces pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortions, the very practice they fundamentally disagree with.

The centers exist to offer women alternatives to abortion, to encourage women to complete their pregnancies, and to encourage a culture of choosing life in general — they should not be forced to advertise the betrayal of these virtues. The bill requires mandatory abortion referrals and other non-medical disclosures. It would impose a requirement that pregnant women be aware of the option to abort, but does not make it a requirement that pregnant women be made aware of the resources available to help them keep and care for their children.

Among other statutes, the bill would also require a mandatory notice be disseminated to crisis pregnancy center patients. The notice must read: “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 is essentially a fear-inducing message to pregnant women. “Am I safe here?” “Can this place truly help me?” are the inducing thoughts behind this.

The notice must appear “in English and in the primary threshold languages for Medi-Cal beneficiaries as determined by the State Department of Health Care Services for the county in which the facility is located.” That makes 13. It is ridiculous a bill would require non-profit crisis pregnancy centers supply an abortion advertisement in 13 different languages, when abortion is entirely the opposite of these centers’ goals. Helping expecting mothers in unplanned situations to save their babies is their mission, their belief, and their purpose. Not to continue to advertise for a harmful procedures which benefit none and take lives in the process.

House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement regarding the case, saying, “Our values and laws demand that women have access to neutral, unbiased facts about their health care options and their statutory rights.”

It was further insisted by the defendants in the case what California’s legislature sought to impose was useful and would help vulnerable women in tough situations. They claimed women were at risk of misinformation and shaming from these centers, saying “pregnancy centers willfully deceive women into believing that abortion is not an option.” While there are no grounds for this statement, this is the narrative being pushed in order to slander pro-life centers.

To date there has been no proof an incident like this has ever occurred. The opposition has yet to produce testimony of a single woman who has been harmed by a crisis pregnancy center.

The complaint firmly states pro-life organizations, especially unlicensed non-medical pregnancy centers, have grounds to refuse this law, which is fundamentally against their call to action. These centers exist to offer women help for their unplanned pregnancies; they do not exist to let women know killing their baby is also an option. This bill violates the right to conscience of pro-life pregnancy center workers and demands funds from non-profit organizations be used to promote the idea abortion is a morally valid option for women in crisis. The rights of private citizens to decline to recite a government-mandated message is currently being fought over at the Supreme Court.

The defense is hopeful for a positive outcome, but the case is still on trial and currently pending.

The final ruling is expected tomorrow, June 22nd.

NIFLA v. Becerra: Pregnancy Centers Fight For Freedom Of Speech Before Supreme Court
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