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Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers Vindicated in California

By Geoffrey Surtees1543508340071

After three years of litigation, including a victorious trip to the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal court in Oakland, California has permanently blocked the State of California from forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise state-funded abortions.

As explained in more detail here, in 2015, the California legislature passed a law (the so-called “FACT Act”) requiring that pregnancy resource centers inform every one of their clients, no matter the reason for their visit, of the following language:

California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number].

(Forcing a pro-life center to advertise abortion is just as absurd—in fact, is even more outrageous—than forcing a vegetarian restaurant to advertise the slogan, “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner,” or “Pork. The other white meat.” But absurdity or outrage never gets in the way of the pro-abortion group, NARAL, which played a significant role in drafting the California law.)

Before the law went into effect, on January 1, 2016, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of three California pro-life pregnancy resource centers: LivingWell Medical Clinic, Pregnancy Care Center of the North Coast, and Confidence Pregnancy Center. These centers provide assistance to women facing health, material, or spiritual needs during their pregnancies, and do so free of charge. One thing they have never done, or would ever do, is refer a client to have an abortion.

After both the district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against our clients, holding that they were unlikely to succeed on their free speech claims against the State, we had no choice but to seek intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court.

To that end, we filed a certiorari petition with the Court, asking it to reverse the decision of the Ninth Circuit, and submitted an amicus brief on behalf of our California clients in the case of National Institute of Family Advocates v. Becerra (“NIFLA”).

After the Supreme Court ruled against the State in the NIFLA case, it granted our certiorari petition, reversed the decision of the court of appeals, and sent the case back for further action.

This week, pursuant to a joint agreement between our clients and the State of California, the same district court that ruled against us three years ago signed an order providing:

It is hereby ORDERED that Defendant Xavier Becerra, in his official capacity as the Attorney General of California, shall be permanently enjoined from enforcing the Reproductive FACT Act, California Health and Safety Code section 123470, et seq. (“the Act”).

It is further ORDERED that judgment is entered in favor of Plaintiffs and against Defendant on Plaintiffs’ claim under the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

California tried to force pro-life centers to spread a pro-abortion message. California failed.

We are hopeful that today’s order, in addition to the court order we recently obtained in Hawaii, will make other state governments think twice before attacking the constitutional rights of pro-life pregnancy centers.

We have been proud to stand with our pro-life clients throughout this litigation, and stand ready to defend the constitutional rights of any pro-life person or organization again in the future.

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