The Supreme Court already has ruled that a state government, California, cannot force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortionists with signs inside their offices, but the city of Hartford, Connecticut, didn’t get the message.
So a complaint has been filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights regarding the city’s discrimination.
Hartford’s target is Caring Families, a life-affirming, faith-based pregnancy care center, and the complaint cites government censorship and coercion.
The city is demanding that the organization use signs inside and outside the facility, on its website, and in telephone conversations to mislead those who may want services.
A lawsuit was filed a few weeks ago over the Hartford ordinance, adopted last October. The statements the city wants to compel, instead of advertising abortionists, “incorrectly imply” that the organization is not qualified to provide its range of free services.
The earlier Supreme Court decision came in NIFLA v. Becerra, in which the justices struck down a California law that mandated those promotions for abortionists.
“The city of Hartford has no business steering women away from life-affirming help,” said ADF Legal Counsel Denise Harle. “Caring Families exists to help ensure that no woman feels alone, hopeless, or without options during an unexpected pregnancy, and the city shouldn’t be using the force of law to make this pro-life care provider imply through its own communications that it is anything but competent and tolerant.
“Federal laws protect against this kind of ideologically driven harassment. That’s why we’re asking HHS to protect pregnancy centers from hostile regulation that singles them out.”
The consequences could be severe, the organization reported.
“The federal Church and Weldon amendments do not allow states which receive federal funding to compel medical personnel to operate contrary to their conscience or religious beliefs. Over the years, ADF has filed complaints with OCR and, based on those complaints, HHS has investigated discrimination against ADF clients in Hawaii, New York, and California. In January 2018, HHS created the Division on Conscience and Religious Freedom within OCR to address growing concerns over government overreach and freedom of religion and conscience,” the ADF reported.
The ADF letter to DHHS confirms that Caring Families provides “medical and other services in conformance with its religious convictions that all human life should be respected at all stages, including life within the womb.”
“Those convictions prohibit Caring Families from performing, assisting in, referring for, or participating in any way with abortion or abortion-causing drugs. These convictions also compel Caring Families to serve the community by communicating truthfully about its beliefs. The rights of Caring Families to offer assistance to women in need without compromising its religious convictions relating to abortion are protected by the First Amendment.”
However, the city’s law, signed by Mayor Luke Bronin, demands that the facility “provide a notice to clients on site, on their websites, and over the telephone in conversations with clients or potential clients, stating: ‘This facility does not have a licensed medical provider on site to provide or supervise all services.'”
The problem with that is that the services Caring Families provides are not all “medical,” the ADF charged.
Worse, the city has exempted abortion clinics, community health clinics and others, targeting only pregnancy centers that do not offer abortion.
That’s unlawful discrimination, the letter charges.
It suggests to the federal department, “Please … inform us of the actions your office plans to take regarding this violation.”