Supreme Court Protects Calif. Pregnancy Centers’ Free Speech

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 protecting a pregnancy center’s right to serve women and children according to their religious mission. In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, the pregnancy centers pushed back against a 2015 California law that targeted pro-life clinics, forcing them to advertise messaging regarding abortion and contraceptive services that undermined their mission.

The following statement can be attributed to Mark Rienzi, president of Becket, a non-profit religious liberty law firm that protects people of all faiths, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting NIFLA:

“The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that both sides of a debate matter, and the government cannot silence one side’s speech just because it may be unpopular. Crisis pregnancy centers like NIFLA serve women and children according to their religious mission, and California should respect that. This ruling proves that when it comes to important issues, the government doesn’t get to tell people what to believe, and it also doesn’t get to tell people what to say about it.”

The California Catholic Conference issued the following statement:

The Most Rev. Jaime Soto, Roman Catholic Bishop of Sacramento and President of the California Catholic Conference, released the following statement today concerning a US Supreme Court ruling overturning a California law restricting the free speech rights of crisis pregnancy centers.  The law, called the “California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency Act” (“FACT Act”), singled out crisis pregnancy centers and required them to post signs and provide information about the availability of abortion services.

“The First Amendment to the United States Constitution may be the most precious, because it protects and enshrines our right to free speech, peaceful assembly and the free exercise of our religion.

Today’s decision by the Supreme Court rejecting the State of California’s legal attempts to muzzle the free speech of women’s health clinics and pregnancy crisis centers shows why.

“The Court specifically noted the FACT Act ‘burdened free speech,’ and imposed a ‘government scripted’ disclosure requirement, but ‘left unburdened those speakers whose messages are in accord with its own views.’

“This is a victory for reason over ideology.  This is a victory for women, offering them hopeful alternatives to abortion. And it’s a victory for children, who will no longer be taken from their mothers because of a senseless governmental preference for abortion.”

Last, the USCCB issued a similar statement praising the Court’s decision:

Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra. This case challenges a California law forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry.  The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of NIFLA under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued the following statement praising the ruling:

“In an important victory for the free speech rights of pro-life organizations, the Supreme Court today has affirmed that that the First Amendment protects the right of all organizations to choose for themselves not only what to say, but what not to say.  This includes allowing pro-life pregnancy care centers to continue providing life-affirming support to both mother and child without being forced by governments to provide free advertising for the violent act of abortion in direct violation of the center’s pro-life convictions.  The decision is an important development in protecting pro-life pregnancy centers from future efforts to compel speech in violation of their deeply held beliefs.”

The USCCB and several other groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the Supreme Court supporting the pro-life pregnancy centers in this important free speech case. The other groups are the California Catholic Conference, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Christian Legal Society and Agudath Israel of America. The full text of the brief is available online: http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/NIFLA-Amicus-2018-01-13F.pdf