ACLJ Defending Embattled Pro-Life Pregnancy Resource Centers, Putting Pro-Abortion Officials and Terrorists Who Try To Destroy and Shut Them Down on Notice

By 

Francis J. Manion

|
July 26

8 min read

Pro Life

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Of the many hysterical overreactions to the Supreme Court’s recent overruling of Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs case, perhaps the hardest to fathom are the fanatical, apparently concerted, sometimes violent attacks on pro-life Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs). There are thousands of such centers (sometimes referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers”) spread across the United States. Many have been in existence for at least as long as Roe held sway as the law of the land; some of them even predate Roe itself.

As the Supreme Court described them in the 2018 case of Nat’l Inst. of Family & Life Advocates v. Becerra, 138 S. Ct. 236, 2368 (2018), they are “pro-life (largely Christian belief-based) organizations that offer a limited range of free pregnancy options, counseling, and other services to individuals that visit a center.” In 2019 alone, the centers provided over 486,000 free ultrasounds along with other medical services, education, counseling, and referrals.  In 2019, over 10,000 licensed medical professionals served as paid or volunteer workers in 2,700 Pregnancy Resource Centers across the United States.

But beginning right after the leak of the draft opinion in the Dobbs case, and intensifying following the release of the actual decision, calls have arisen from so-called “pro-choice” politicians and individuals for government investigations and internet policing of Pregnancy Resource Centers for allegedly engaging in “deceptive and fraudulent practices.” Members of Congress have asked Google to impose drastic limitations on the ability of these pro-life centers to advertise their services and even their locations. The Attorney General of New York chimed in with her own request for Pregnancy Resource Centers to essentially be banned from the Internet, while the New York legislature passed a law that authorizes that state’s bureaucrats to launch a comprehensive and intrusive “investigation” – some might call it a witch hunt – of every PRC in New York.  Not wishing to be outdone by her Empire State neighbors, last week Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren accused all PRCs of subjecting women to “torture” and vowed that the United States government would soon “shut them down all around the country.”

Meanwhile, and with nary a discouraging word from pro-abortion politicians, shadowy groups with names such as “Jane’s Revenge” and “Ruth Sent Me” have launched a campaign of harassment, vandalism, death threats, and even fire bombings against PRCs. These modern-day Ku Kluxers can be seen in their masks and hoodies on security footage spray-painting threats, smashing windows, destroying equipment, even in some cases hurling Molotov cocktails at dozens (over 70 at last count) of nonprofit, shoestring budget, volunteer-staffed centers whose sole purpose is to help frightened and needy women and girls.

This bizarre “shut down the PRCs” campaign has now reached the highest level of the political pyramid. President Biden has sprung into action with his own Executive order, pulling out all the stops to do what he (thinks) he can do to endear himself and his party to what they think are the most fundamental needs and desires of those whom they ludicrously refer to as “pregnant people.” It’s no longer a matter of “safe, legal, and rare;” now it’s abortion for everyone, whenever, wherever, however.

We at the ACLJ have reviewed the President’s abortion Executive orders (he’s released several). Much is mere political theater, restating things that are already in the law. Much of it is unlawful as beyond the powers of the Executive branch under our Constitution. But one thing that caught our eye was the section calling on the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Attorney General, and the Chair of the FTC to “address deceptive or fraudulent practices related to reproductive healthcare services.” We know this code. We’ve seen it – and challenged it – many times before. It means the federal government has now officially bought into the pro-abortion lobby’s lies and, like “Jane’s Revenge” and Senator Warren, is looking to shut down PRCs “all around the country.”

The ACLJ is fighting back though. We’ve been standing with PRCs since our organization was founded over 30 years ago. We’re not about to let them go it alone as they face what figures to be their toughest fight against the most powerful political forces in our country, let alone the cowardly masked and hooded pro-abortion domestic terrorists who strike in the dark. We’ve sued government officials from New York to California on behalf of PRCs from district courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court. And we’ve won.

One of the government officials we sued is former California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, now the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under the latest Biden Executive order, Becerra is given the task to “consider options to address deceptive or fraudulent practices related to reproductive healthcare services, including online, and to protect access to accurate information.” He’s done that before. Back in California. (Becerra inherited the task in California from his predecessor, one Kamala Harris.) In California, the Harris-Becerra team defended all the way to the Supreme Court a draconian anti-PRC measure that the Court had little difficulty striking down as an egregious violation of the First Amendment rights of PRCs. In that case, we represented three California PRCs that – thanks to Harris and Becerra – found themselves facing cripling fines if they failed to announce to everyone who came through their doors for help a toll-free number where they could get a free abortion courtesy of the taxpayers of California. See LivingWell Med. Clinic v. Becerra, 138 S. Ct. 2701 (2018), cert. granted (vacating and remanding LivingWell Med. Clinic v. Harris, 669 F. App’x 493 (9th Cir. 2016)); see also, Nat’l Inst. of Family & Life Advocates v. Becerra, 138 S. Ct. 2361, 2368 (2018).

We’re hoping that Secretary Becerra was sufficiently chastened by the Supreme Court loss in the California case that he avoids those same kinds of heavy-handed, unconstitutional tactics this time around. But, honestly, we’re not that hopeful. So, we just sent a formal legal demand letter putting the Secretary and the Biden Administration on notice of the ACLJ’s concerns. We’re reminding them, among other things, that when it comes to government investigations and regulation of allegedly “fraudulent and deceptive practices” by PRCs, we’ve seen this movie before. It doesn’t end well for the government. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try to tinker with the screenplay, this time around at the national level.  If they do, we’re prepared to defend lifesaving pro-life pregnancy centers again even if it means another trip through the federal courts all the way to the Supreme Court.

But the ACLJ’s defense of embattled PRCs doesn’t stop there. We’re already representing several PRCs in New York (meeting with two more this week) and are speaking and consulting with others in Michigan and Pennsylvania.  We’ve formulated a three-pronged strategy designed to give maximum protection to these essential, lifesaving organizations. We plan to defend, investigate, and litigate.

First, we’re preparing to defend the PRCs against the witch hunts as they fend off the efforts of their state’s political machinery to “investigate” them into oblivion. We will stand with them once the burdensome New York Attorney General subpoenas start to fly commanding that these shoestring budget volunteer charities interrupt their lifesaving work to turn over every scrap of paper and every byte of digital information they’ve generated over the years to meet some ideologically driven bureaucrat’s arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable demands. We’ll file motions to quash subpoenas and, when appropriate, we’ll take the bureaucrats to court to protect the constitutional and civil rights of our clients. And we can be sure that what started in New York is unlikely to end there. We expect other pro-abortion state AG’s to follow New York’s lead in harassing PRCs. We anticipate a nationwide effort, an effort we must be prepared to meet.

Second, we are doing and will continue to do investigation of our own of the thugs and terrorists and their campaign to shut down and, in some cases, physically destroy PRCs. Is there really an organization behind “Jane’s Revenge,” or is it just a name given to malicious, misguided zealots across the country who share a common goal of shutting down PRCs by violence, threats of violence, intimidation, and terror? We aim to find out. We are offering whatever assistance the ACLJ can provide to local, state, and federal law enforcement officials as they do the work of tracking them down and bringing them to justice in the criminal law system. The smashed windows, the death threats, and the fire bombings must stop!

Third, we will litigate. Not only will we sue governments to prevent overreach in their investigations of PRCs or enactment of unconstitutional laws and regulations, we’re also prepared to file civil actions on behalf of PRCs against individuals and their co-conspirators, whoever they may be, under federal and state civil rights laws (including the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871). And we’re also developing a strategy to bring civil actions under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994. That law, originally passed to protect abortion clinics and their clients (and persons attending religious worship) from obstruction, harassment, and intimidation, by its terms also applies to PRCs since, like abortion clinics, they provide “medical, surgical, counseling or referral services relating to the human reproductive system, including services relating to pregnancy or the termination of a pregnancy.” FACE authorizes “any person aggrieved” by acts of obstruction, interference, intimidation, and injury to commence a civil action against the perpetrators for injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorney’s fees. The ACLJ is prepared to commence such actions against any members of “Jane’s Revenge” or similar groups we can identify, the groups themselves, and their co-conspirators.

As you can see, the ACLJ is anxious and ready to defend the priceless life-affirming work of the heroes who run our pro-life PRCs. With the demise of Roe, their work is needed now more than ever before. As they confront the new challenges of the post-Roe world, they are also braving the strong headwinds of both feckless pro-abortion politicians and – let’s call them what they are – terrorists. The PRCs need our help and we’re committed to doing our part to help them accomplish their mission.