VICTORY: Pro-Life, Free Speech Wins At SCOTUS
Court Strikes California Law Targeting Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers
Victory! Today, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a 2015 California Law which targeted the free speech of pro-life pregnancy centers. The case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, surrounded California Assembly Bill 775, the so-called “Reproductive FACT Act,” which required licensed medical centers that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. The law forced pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion services. Texas Values joined several pro-life, free speech, and religious freedom organizations in an amicus (friend of the court) brief for the case.
The Court ruled “…the FACT Act violates the First Amendment. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” The court further said. “The licensed notice is a content-based regulation. By compelling petitioners to speak a particular message, it “alters the content of [their] speech.” Riley v. National Federation of Blind of N. C., Inc., 487 U. S. 781, 795. For example, one of the state-sponsored services that the licensed notice requires petitioners to advertise is abortion—the very practice that petitioners are devoted to opposing.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court found what the lower federal courts in Texas found: targeting free speech of pro-life centers is unconstitutional and unjust. We are grateful that justice has prevailed and that the free speech of pro-life groups is protected,” stated Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values
Jonathan Saenz, President and Attorney of Texas Values, was one of the lawyers who successfully defended Austin pregnancy centers in a similar case when the City of Austin tried to restrict the free speech for pro-life pregnancy centers. The city lost the federal lawsuit and had to pay $480,000 in attorney fees with tax dollars. Other courts have invalidated, or mostly invalidated, similar laws in Baltimore, New York City, and Montgomery County, Maryland.
Alliance Defending Freedom’s President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris argued the case on behalf of NIFLA earlier this year. According to Farris, the California law goes far beyond a simple disclaimer and becomes advertising. The required disclosure must also include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry. The law also forced unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures in multiple languages about their non-medical status in advertisements, which obscure and crowd out their pro-life speech. Failure to comply carried civil fines up to $1,000 per violation.
Farris stated, “No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion. In this case, the government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion. The Supreme Court said that the government can’t do that, and that it must respect pro-life beliefs. Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a diverse society like ours. They enable us to coexist peacefully with one another. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to others.”
Texas Values joined several pro-life, free speech, and religious freedom organizations in an amicus (friend of the court) brief for the case. David French, the lead counsel for the amicus brief, stated, “Compelled speech is not the answer to cultural conflict. This court must not render professionals second-class citizens with diminished constitutional rights.” Twenty-two states, 144 members of Congress, and many others filed amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and a lower court’s ruling that allowed California to enforce AB 775.
About Texas Values
Texas Values is the largest statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to standing for faith, family, and freedom in Texas. More information is available at txvalues.org.