California is assaulting free speech again.
If a California pro-life pregnancy center refuses to speak the state government’s propaganda, it would face a civil penalty of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
That’s the result of a decision in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Harris, issued by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision, released in October, upholds a California law that forces life-affirming pregnancy resource centers to promote abortion.
California’s so-called “Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act” requires licensed pregnancy resource centers to instruct women on how to receive “free or low-cost access to … abortion” in direct contradiction of their mission of providing compassionate alternatives to abortion.
Alliance Defending Freedom represented the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates in the case. After the ruling, Matt Bowman, ADF senior counsel, argued that “forcing these centers to promote abortion and recite the government’s preferred views is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms.”
If you can’t force vegetarian restaurants to hand out coupons for local steakhouses, you certainly can’t force pro-life organizations to direct people to free or reduced-price abortions. But abortion politics always seems to distort the logic and reasoning of judges and policymakers, especially in California.
Why Is California Targeting Pregnancy Resource Centers?
According to the most recent available state-level data from 2011, California performed more abortions than any other state. Planned Parenthood’s former research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, reports that while 18 percent of pregnancies in America resulted in abortion that year, in California 23 percent of pregnancies resulted in abortion.
California has virtually no restrictions on abortion such as waiting periods and parental consent requirements. The state is so abortion-friendly that it allows state tax dollars to pay for abortion services and requires employee health insurance plans—even church insurance plans—to cover elective abortions.
Faced with these sobering challenges, life-affirming pregnancy resource centers have nonetheless gone to great lengths to counter California’s pro-abortion culture and offer women alternatives. These organizations provide services, education, supplies, counseling, and compassionate options to women experiencing a tough pregnancy.
But for groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, life-affirming options during a crisis pregnancy are wholly unacceptable. Pro-abortion organizations derisively attack crisis pregnancy centers as misleading women because they do not spread pro-abortion propaganda and object to state funding for life-affirming programs even though these centers exist to offer women real choices beyond just abortion.
It’s unsurprising that pro-abortion advocates jumped at the chance to hinder life-affirming efforts. After all, crisis pregnancy centers offer alternatives to abortion that respect the dignity of both mothers and their unborn children.
The abortion industry, in contrast, is profit-driven: the more abortions performed, the better an organization like Planned Parenthood’s bottom line. Abortion advocates are clearly concerned that in just one year, California saw a 2 percent decline in abortion providers statewide. California’s law is essentially a government-ordered advertising service to help the abortion industry.
A Dangerous Assault on Free Speech
A rehearing petition has been filed requesting that the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rehear the case. No matter what happens next, it is clear that pro-life advocates will continue facing a hostile environment in California.
The attorney general’s office colluded with Planned Parenthood to craft legislation that targets undercover journalists like David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress who continue to expose the ugly truth about the abortion industry, including its unconscionable harvesting of baby body parts. As mentioned previously, California churches will continue to be forced to provide abortion insurance coverage.
California is becoming the abortion capital of America, and its latest assault on free speech and abortion alternatives should alarm all Americans who believe in people’s freedom to provide compassionate care according to their consciences.