We are pleased to report that the Northern District of Illinois issued a strong decision in favor of the fight for life in the case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates et al., v. Governor Bruce Rauner, et al.
Last month, we filed an amicus brief in the Northern District of Illinois, asking for the Court to issue a preliminary injunction to halt the implementation of an amendment to an the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act (“HCRCA”) that would require Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) and their workers to advocate for abortion and contraception against their conscience and in violation of their rights under the Constitution of the United States, and protected by the state HCRCA.
Today, the judge in the case, Judge Frederick Kapala, issued a decision granting the preliminary injunction on behalf of the Plaintiffs. This decision will stop the imposition of the new amendment on pro-life pregnancy centers and CPC workers until the entire case has been litigated, or until the Judge finds reason to rule otherwise.
In his decision, Judge Kapala acknowledges the mission of pro-life pregnancy centers and the dilemma pro-life workers face under this new law: “Plaintiffs explain that they treat every unborn child as a human being with inalienable dignity and as a patient along with the child’s mother. Consequently, their religious and pro-life beliefs prohibit them from providing women with the names of other health care providers who may perform abortions because that would implicate them in destroying a human life and violate one of the leading principles of the Hippocratic Oath, that doctors do no harm to those under their care.”
Simply having a federal judge echo, in a district court opinion, the beliefs and purposes of pro-life pregnancy centers and their workers is a welcome acknowledgement, and possibly – even hopefully – a reminder to some who are undecided on this issue or who are pro-choice why those of us who are pro-life fight as hard as we do for the unborn.
In granting the motion for preliminary injunction, Judge Kapala states, “the First Amendment prohibits not only direct burdens on speech, but also indirect burdens that are created when the government conditions receipt of a benefit on compelling or foregoing constitutionally-protected speech.” Additionally, the Judge found that this amendment “fundamentally changes the HCRCA by conditioning its protection on a protocol requiring health care providers with conscience-based objections to abortion to now do some of the things the HCRCA formerly excused them from doing.”
Crucially, the Judge summarizes: “It is clear that the amended act targets the free speech rights of people who have a specific viewpoint. . . . Therefore, the court finds that plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of showing that the amended act discriminates against health care providers that are of the point of view that abortion is wrong by compelling only them to speak a message that, from their viewpoint, is abhorrent.”
This is precisely what we argued in our amicus brief, supporting the arguments made by Plaintiffs themselves. This is a significant victory for the pro-life Plaintiffs right at the outset of this case.
As mentioned in our previous post, this case is of particular importance to the ACLJ as we have represented, and currently represent, clients in litigation involving speech-mandates imposed on CPCs. For example, we represented plaintiffs in Evergreen Association, Inc. v. City of New York, successfully challenging portions of a New York City law similar in purpose to the law at issue here.
It is noteworthy that Judge Kapala cited to the Second Circuit’s decision in Evergreen in asserting that because the speech at issue here is on a matter of public debate, it is likely that this amendment is overly burdensome on Plaintiffs’ speech. This is a timely example that a victory in a case, even one occurring in a different federal circuit, can have far-reaching positive implications in the future work of the ACLJ.
The ACLJ also currently represents three California CPCs in LivingWell Medical Clinic v. Becerra, a case challenging a California statute that requires such centers to speak against their conscience. Just recently we submitted a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States in this case and await a determination. And we have just filed a similar federal lawsuit in Hawaii to defend pro-life pregnancy centers.
These cases truly do matter in the pro-life movement and they can have real-life, on-the-ground effects on the lives of those who are on the front lines of the effort. We thank you for your prayers and support as these cases move forward in their respective courts, and we will continue to keep you updated as decisions are issued.
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