Supreme Court To Hear Pregnancy Center Law Dispute

SCOTUS abortion protest

Activists on both sides awaiting last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion access. Rena Schild

"This punishment would harm these centers as well as the vulnerable pregnant women to whom these pro-life groups provide free counseling and care".

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a conservative challenge to a controversial California law that requires pregnancy "crisis centers" to post information about state-provided abortion and contraception options.

"The FACT Act compels speech, and regulates content", Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gloria Trask said, ruling in another case last month that the law violated free speech protections.

They petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari after losing their battle for an injunction against the law a year ago at the Ninth Circuit.

"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. "The state should protect freedom of speech and freedom from coerced speech".

Additionally, the law requires unlicensed centers to expressly indicate they are not licensed as medical facilities in California.

The law requires licensed healthcare facilities to post a notice saying that the state has programs for "immediate free or low-priced access to comprehensive family planning services. prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women".

California is defending the Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency) Act, passed in 2015.

The free-speech issue has arisen in different contexts around the country.

A 2011 New York City law requiring centers to disclose whether they offer abortion and emergency contraception and to make referrals if they don't was barred for being overly broad.

Hartford, Connecticut, announced last week that it was considering a regulation like California's, including a $100-a-day fine for pregnancy centers that do not meet the disclosure requirements.

"Critics of pregnancy centers claim that this is not enough", a 2016 Care Net report stated. Lawyers for the centers say that their clients, out of religious objections, do not refer patients for abortion and that they can not be compelled to post the notification.

The 2018 ruling on NIFLA v. Becerra will apply to the other three suits challenging California's FACT Act.

The California challengers included the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, an umbrella group for pregnancy crisis centers that said its members include 73 facilities in the state that are medically licensed and 38 that are not.

"We reject appellants' arguments that they are entitled to a preliminary injunction based on their free speech claims", U.S. Circuit Judge Dorothy Nelson wrote for a three-judge panel. The court sided with the state in a 3-0 ruling, saying that the state was acting within its power of regulating medical providers. The law applied to hundreds of privately funded pregnancy centers.

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