Progressives arguing for one of their favorite topics – abortion – have been caught by an Illinois judge arguing “both ways” in his courtroom, and he responded by issuing an injunction against a new abortion-counseling mandate until it can be sorted out.
The issue is the newly developing requirements sought by abortion-business advocates across the country that even those who oppose abortion must counsel their patients or clients about it. The latest fight in Illinois is over a requirement that doctors counsel about all “legal options” for their patients, which includes abortion.
WND reported in September it’s come up as an issue in California, where lawmakers are demanding pro-life pregnancy centers counsel clients about abortion, and in New York City and other places.
The Illinois dispute involves a new state law that purports to require the counseling by even pro-life doctors and physicians. So the Pregnancy Care Center of Rockford, Dr. Anthony Caruso, A Bella Baby Obgyn and Aid for Women all joined to go to court against Gov. Bruce Rauner and Bryan Schneider of the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation.
Circuit Judge Eugene Doherty this week issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the requirement.
“Defendants argue that SB1564 doesn’t really change the standards of conduct already imposed on providers by professional licensing requirements, and yet they also argue that SB1564 serves an important function of making available to patients information they would not otherwise receive,” he wrote.
“Defendants cannot have it both ways; they cannot argue that SB1564 addresses an unmet health care need and at the same time argue that its requirements are already part of existing professional standards.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which has fought against such mandates to counsel on abortion, said the dispute has a simple constitutional answer.
“Forcing pro-life doctors and pregnancy care centers in Illinois to operate as referral agents for the abortion industry in violation of their freedom of conscience is unconstitutional, illegal, and unethical,” said Senior Counsel Matt Bowman.
“No state has the authority to compel health professionals, against their will and their sacred oath to ‘do no harm,’ to promote abortion. We commend the court’s ruling which is a victory for free speech and the freedom of conscience,” he said.
Technically, the judge ruled that the Pregnancy Care Center of Rockford has raised sufficient questions as to whether the new law is either legal of constitutional as applied to pro-life doctors and pregnancy care centers.
For example, the judge noted, “Why must the state, which licenses and regulates those who provide the objected-to services, rely on the very people who object to the services to be the source of information about them?”
The judge concluded: “This case has been resolved by reference to the constitutional right to be free from compelled speech. It is prudent to remember that the issue here is not a dispute over the merits of the message, but the government’s power to compel a citizen to speak it. For the reasons stated above, the court concludes that plaintiffs have raised a fair question as to whether their right to be free from government compelled speech is violated by SB1564.
“This injunction is effective until the conclusion of this case or further order of the court.”
The same plan had been adopted in New York but was dropped after a legal challenge. Consequently, pregnancy care centers in New York City can continue to “serve women without being forced to speak or post messages that are contrary to their pro-life beliefs or that direct women away from the services the centers offer,” according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which fought the state government over the issue.
The odd case out in the series that has developed, almost simultaneously across the country, is in California. There, pro-abortion judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the state could force private organizations to carry the pro-abortion message, but the fight continues.
Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute said this week that the court had denied a request for a rehearing of the full court on “the government mandate that pro-life pregnancy clinics promote abortion.”
The clash between court rulings of similar cases often sets up a path to the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on constitutional issues such as protections against compelled speech.
Dacus suggested that very resolution.
“While we are clearly disappointed with the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court rehearing en banc panel, we are determined to move forward to make sure this case has the potential to be overturned by the United States Supreme Court,” he said.
“Every private ministry in the United States should be free to conduct their ministry without having to advertise something of the state that is in opposition to the ministry’s direct purpose and mission,” continued Dacus.
WND previously reported on the California case, where Christian pro-life counseling centers are fighting a mandate, based on instructions from NARAL Pro-Choice America to lawmakers, that they promote abortion even if the procedure violates their faith.
The issue also has arisen in Montgomery County, Maryland, where WND reported two years ago that officials decided not to appeal an adverse court ruling that halted their plan.
The Supreme Court previously has concluded on the issue: “Where the personal nexus between professional and client does not exist, and a speaker does not purport to be exercising judgment on behalf of any particular individual with whose circumstances he is directly acquainted, government regulation ceases to function as legitimate regulation of professional practice with only incidental impact on speech; it becomes regulation of speaking or publishing as such, subject to the First Amendment’s command that ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.'”