The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to take up a fight over a California law that requires pregnancy counseling centers, including those run by churches, to tell their patients that subsidized abortions are available elsewhere.
A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S., November 15, 2016. It requires licensed and covered facilities to give all their clients notice that the state "has public programs that provide immediate free or low-priced access to comprehensive family planning services, prenatal care, and abortion, for eligible women".
Last month a California Superior Court Justice put a halt to the law with a permanent injunction, ruling that the state can not force pro-life pregnancy centers to post signage promoting state-covered abortions to their clients.
"California's threat to pro-life pregnancy care centers and medical clinics counts among the most flagrant violations of constitutional religious and free speech rights in the nation", said NIFLA founder and president Thomas Glessner, J.D, in a statement. "Information about abortion is just about everywhere, so the government doesn't need to punish pro-life centers for declining to advertise for the very act they can't promote".
"Information is power, and all women should have access to the information they need when making personal healthcare decisions", Becerra said. These facilities, according to critics, often are located near hospitals and abortion clinics, offer ultrasounds and are staffed by people wearing medical garb.
California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-priced access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care and abortion for eligible women. Unlicensed centers also must inform clients of their status.
In that case, a federal district court judge and a three- judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Liberty Counsel's request for a preliminary injunction, finding that it was not likely that the law violates the First Amendment. The NIFLA case, the first of the four cases to reach the Supreme Court, is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom.
While granting certiorari in the case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the court narrowed the issues it will consider. The court did not act on three other cases brought by other centers making similar claims.
It marks the first time the Supreme Court has agreed to hear an abortion-related case during the Trump administration, and one lawyer behind the challenge, Jay Sekulow, also serves on Trump's legal team.
Glessner said that California pro-life centers should not be penalized for doing their job in suggesting to women alternatives to abortion. The court said the law is "ideological in intent" and violates doctors' free-speech rights.