Over the last few years, key players in America’s abortion industry have worked with like-minded lawmakers to write laws that require pro-life pregnancy centers to provide “information” about women’s pregnancy options.
But in actuality it’s just a requirement that they promote abortion.
Now a judge has ruled a California law unconstitutional in a case brought by Advocates for Faith & Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice on behalf of California’s Scharpen Foundation, which runs the Go Mobile for Life center.
California’s FACT Act, which requires that pro-life pregnancy centers prominently advertise local abortionists’ contact information, violates Article 1, Section 2 of the California Constitution, Judge Gloria Trask ruled in the dispute in Riverside County Superior Court.
“Here, the state commands clinics to post specific directions for whom to contact to obtain an abortion. It forces the clinic to point the way to the abortion clinic and can leave patients with the belief they were referred to an abortion provider by that clinic. … In Scharpen’s case that would be inaccurate, profoundly inaccurate,” she wrote.
The state constitution mandates: “Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press.”
“Compelled speech must be subject to reasonable limitation. The statute compels the clinic to speak words with which it profoundly disagrees when the state has numerous alternative methods of publishing its message. … In this case, however virtuous the state’s ends, they do not justify its means,” the judge said.
Scott Scharpen, founder of the foundation, said: “The whole notion of being compelled to share information with our patients about abortion availability, which is contrary to our mission and purpose, is fundamentally wrong. Lives will be saved because of this ruling.’
The issue has been the subject of court cases across the nation for several years, with conflicting results. One case has been presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, and an announcement is expected over the next few weeks on whether the justices will take the case.
But after a handful of court decisions in favor of allowing government to impose a message on private parties, rulings lately have turned against the requirement.
WND reported in July U.S. District Judge Frederick Kapala determined in an Illinois case an amendment to the state’s health care laws likely will not stand.
He said, “The amended act targets the free speech rights of people who have a specific viewpoint.”
The law in his bull’s-eye 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.”
Advocates for Faith & Freedom lawyers said they argued in the case before Trask that the state “can deliver its message without infringing upon anyone’s liberty.”
“It may purchase television advertisements as it does to encourage Californians to sign up for Covered California or to conserve water. It may purchase billboard space and post its message directly in front of Scharpen Foundation’s clinic.”
Advocates worked with the attorneys of Tyler & Burch on the case.
Robert Tyler said: “It is a great day in California because we know that freedom of speech is still a protected constitutional right. Judge Trask is absolutely correct that the state can’t force a pro-life clinic to advertise abortions on behalf of the state and its abortion mills.”
The ruling, released Monday, said “compelled speech of a political or cultural nature is not the tool of a free government.”
“The legislature may not use the wall of the physician’s office as a billboard to advertise the availability of low cost abortions.”
The issue continues in several other cases in both state and federal courts.
ACLJ said earlier, when Trask refused the state’s demand to dismiss the Scharpen complaint, that such laws are “a brazen attempt to coerce pro-life groups into supporting the very thing to which they religiously object.”
The group noted Trask’s comments, including: “This compelled speech is not politically netural. This speech is not merely the transmittal of neutral information, such as the calorie count of a Big Mac, or that smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol can be hazardous to health. It is not as benign as compelling a plum producer to contribute to a marketing campaign touting the benefits of plums.
“The state commands the clinics to post specific directions for whom to contact to obtain an abortion. It forces the clinic to point the way to the abortion clinic and can leave patients with the belief they were referred to an abortion provider by that clinic.”
The judge ruled a “right” to abortion, as created by the U.S. Supreme Court, does not mean other rights are secondary.
“It is entirely proper for the state to take its position supporting access to abortion. … It may enact laws that support abortion access. … It can require informed consent for all medical procedures. But its ability to impress free citizens into state service in this political dispute cannot be absolute; it must be limited.”
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.”