In a case that has divided courts, a federal judge in Illinois ruled a law that would force pregnancy centers to promote abortion regardless of their moral views likely is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Frederick Kapala determined an amendment to the state’s health care laws likely will be overturned when the issue comes to trial.
He issued a temporary injunction preventing the law’s enforcement until the case is concluded.
“The amended act targets the free speech rights of people who have a specific viewpoint,” he wrote.
The law would require doctors and pregnancy care centers, even those that are pro-life, to promote abortion.
“The government is out of line when it attempts to force Americans to communicate a message that is contrary to their most deeply held beliefs,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Elissa Graves.
“In addition, the state shouldn’t be robbing women of the freedom to choose a pro-life doctor by mandating that pro-life physicians and entities make or arrange abortion referrals. The court was right to halt enforcement of this law while our lawsuit proceeds.”
ADF represents multiple pregnancy care centers, a pregnancy care center network and a doctor in a lawsuit challenging the law.
They argue the amendment to the existing Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution.
ADF said SB 1564 “forces pregnancy care centers, medical facilities, and physicians who conscientiously object to involvement in abortions to adopt policies that provide women who ask for abortions with a list of providers ‘they reasonably believe may offer’ them.”
“Federal law prohibits the government from placing burdens on religious conscience without a compelling interest for doing so.”
The plaintiffs, the judge found, have “demonstrated a better than negligible chance of succeeding in showing that the amended act discriminates based on their viewpoint by compelling them to tell their patients that abortion is a legal treatment option, which has benefits, and, at a minimum and upon request, to give their patients the identifying information of providers who will perform an abortion.”
ADF-allied attorney and co-counsel Noel Sterett with Mauck & Baker LLC said the government “has no business forcing pro-life doctors and pregnancy care centers in Illinois to operate as referral agents for the abortion industry.”
“A law that targets medical professionals because of their pro-life views and right of conscience is unconstitutional and unethical,” Sterett said.
Thomas A. Glessner, president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, said the decision “correctly interprets the Constitution to prohibit compelled speech mandating faith-based ministries to speak a message with which they are fundamentally opposed.”
“We applaud this ruling that stops the state of Illinois from forcing pro-life pregnancy medical clinics to become abortion referral agencies,” he said.
Glessner’s organization also has been involved in a similar case in California, where ADF also is representing pro-life groups.
Last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the most overturned appeals court in the nation, decided to affirm the right of the state to impose restrictions on residents’ speech.
It’s not a new dispute. WND reported in 2014 almost identical arguments in Montgomery County, Maryland, where an appeals court decided against rules that would restrict the speech of pregnancy centers.
Related cases also have developed in New York, Austin and Baltimore.
The New Jersey case arose when abortion advocates in the government decided to require pro-life pregnancy centers that offer advice, diapers and other help to mothers-to-be to post a sign advising women to go to another clinic for help.
The push for the mandatory signs came from county officials who adopted the demands of pro-abortion interests such as the National Abortion Rights Action League.
But as U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasenow found, there was no evidence that such signs were needed.
“Even assuming … that [pro-life] centers are presenting themselves as medical providers and thus pregnant women are accepting their misinformation as sound medical advice, the county must still demonstrate the next supposition on the logical chain: that these practices are having the effect of harming the health of pregnant women,” the judge wrote in banning the county from imposing its signage requirement.
The judge said the county “has failed this task.”