US Supreme Court: Can Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers be Forced to Advertise Abortions?

Can an organization that exists to prevent babies from being aborted be forced to tell people how to get free abortions?  That is a question the United States Supreme Court will consider on Tuesday when they hear oral arguments in the case of NIFLA v.Becerra.

In 2015, California legislators passed a bill called the “Reproductive FACT” Act, which forces pro-life pregnancy centers to tell women who come into their center where they can receive free abortions. It also requires pregnancy centers to post a notice in their facility that says, in 48 point font, that ”This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.”

The same disclaimer is also required to be on every advertisement.

That requirement makes many forms of advertising impossible.  Web ads, for example, often don’t allow that many words.  Billboards or other large advertisements would also become impractical.  A message that said “Pregnant? Let’s Talk” would be forced to include the 29-word disclaimer in the same or larger font making the purpose of the advertisement useless.

Repeated efforts to put similar regulations on pregnancy centers in Washington State were defeated five years ago.

It is worth noting that California recently legalized marijuana. While the now-legal pot stores are regulated, they don’t have anything close to the restrictions on advertisements that pregnancy centers have.

It seems in California that the advertising restrictions for non-profit organizations that give away baby clothes may be more onerous than those for stores that sell drugs.

It is also apparently unprecedented to require an establishment to advertisement what they do not do.

The Family Policy Institute of Washington, along with other state-based policy organizations, filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court urging them to strike down the regulations as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech.

You can read that brief here.

While the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday, a decision is not expected until June.

FPIW’s president, Joseph Backholm, will be covering the oral arguments on this case from the Supreme Court in Washington DC.  You can find Facebook live coverage of the events on our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/familypolicy or follow the blog at www.fpiw.org as well.

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