SCOTUS Ruled by ONE Vote Not to Make Pro-Lifers Abortion Salesmen. Here’s What That Means.

By John Zmirak Published on June 26, 2018

This morning I got one of the happiest press releases in recent years. It came from Students for Life of America. That group’s hard-charging president, Kristan Hawkins, praised the Supreme Court for its latest ruling. The court’s decision in NIFLA v. Becerra

put a halt to the abortion industry’s campaign forcing pro-life advocates to act as a sales team for abortion. Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry fought to destroy the free speech rights of pro-life individuals in California who daily work to help women choose life for their pre-born infants.

This effort shows the true hypocrisy of abortion advocates who didn’t respect the Constitutional rights of those who love women and their pre-born infants. Vocal support for abortion was the only choice they would accept. Or else. As the head of an organization with more than 1,200 chapters in all 50 states, I am celebrating this hard-won victory, protecting the rights of groups like mine that work in the public arena every day spreading a message offensive to groups like Planned Parenthood, a message of hope and a future. Women deserve love, support and assistance when pregnant, rather than a hard-sell for abortion.

So I decided to interview Ms. Hawkins about the decision and what it means.

What Did the Court Actually Say?

The Stream: The recent Supreme Court decision on whether pregnancy centers must refer for abortions. … Can you sum up the main argument of the majority opinion? What was the crucial argument?

Kristan Hawkins - 360

The bottom line is that you can’t make pro-life people function as a sales team for abortion. The California government may not legislate away the free speech rights of pro-life individuals.

The majority found that the state of California appeared to be singling out pro-life advocates. And doing so based on their viewpoint, not for any reason that promoted state interests. A number of organizations worked on pregnancy, birth control, health-related topics. But pro-life pregnancy care centers were the targets of the law.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion. He noted: “Such ‘[u]nderinclusiveness raises serious doubts about whether the government is in fact pursuing the interest it invokes, rather than disfavoring a particular speaker or viewpoint.’” Thomas also noted that pro-abortion locations faced no such regulations. (They didn’t have to post signs or read from a state-authored script.) “Such speaker-based laws run the risk that ‘the State has left unburdened those speakers whose messages are in accord with its own views.’”

“Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties.”

In fact, the regulations created a burden for pro-life organizations. Thomas wrote:

As California conceded at oral argument, a billboard for an unlicensed facility that says ‘Choose Life’ would have to surround that two-word statement with a 29-word statement from the government, in as many as 13 different languages. In this way, the unlicensed notice drowns out the facility’s own message. More likely, the ‘detail required’ by the unlicensed notice ‘effectively rules out’ the possibility of having such a billboard in the first place.

Justice Kennedy, in a concurring decision, talked about the dangers of “viewpoint discrimination.” He said: “Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties.”

Free Speech Vindicated, and More

Q: Is this a pro-life win, or just a free speech win?

Both. In the 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court reversed the impact of the law on pro-life advocates in California, which required abortion advocacy. The majority noted that by compelling speech you actually change speech. By forcing people to act against their consciences you violate their First Amendment rights.

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Q: What was the logic the left offered for compelling speech by pro-lifers that recommended abortion?

Justice Breyer, in his dissent, made an interesting argument. He claimed that it’s acceptable to compel speech if you are “evenhanded” about it. That’s because the topic of abortion is medical in nature as well as religious and moral in tone. He wrote:

If a State can lawfully require a doctor to tell a woman seeking an abortion about adoption services, why should it not be able, as here, to require a medical counselor to tell a woman seeking prenatal care or other reproductive healthcare about childbirth and abortion services? As the question suggests, there is no convincing reason to distinguish between information about adoption and information about abortion in this context. After all, the rule of law embodies evenhandedness, and ‘what is sauce for the goose is normally sauce for the gander.’”

However, he did not comment on why it was okay to compel people to speak against their values.

Why the Ruling Makes Sense

Q: What’s your response to that?

Justice Thomas answered that requiring doctors to talk about adoption when discussing abortion makes sense. People at abortion facilities are considering that medical procedure. They need to know their options. But women at pregnancy care centers are looking for life-affirming options. So advocating for abortion is not the goal or intent. Pregnancy Care Centers are staffed mostly with volunteers. They exist to offer women other choices, not abortion. Requiring people to act as a sales team for a service they don’t support or sell is a violation of free speech rights.

Pregnancy Care Centers are staffed mostly with volunteers. They exist to offer women other choices, not abortion. Requiring people to act as a sales team for a service they don’t support or sell is a violation of free speech rights.

As I said in a recent op-ed at Fox News:

Should the government be able to force you to advocate for things you believe are harmful? Consider the outrage if vegetarian nutritionists were forced to extol the health benefits of beef or if breast-feeding advocates in the La Leche League had to recommend baby formula or if anti-war protestors had to mention Army recruitment. That kind of government interference in free speech would be seen as ridiculous if applied to such passions. But people opposed to abortion face such pressure now in California.…

Most of us have heard of a gag order, where a court orders someone to stay quiet, but new on the scene of speech lately are compelled speech orders, which require people to advocate for things despite their passionately held convictions. This Orwellian campaign puts the bully in bully pulpit, as it attempts to co-opt almost every pro-life conversation.

The Impact on the Front Lines

Q: What’s the practical impact of this decision? What bad consequences does it avoid, and what opportunities does it offer?

Practically, this prevents pro-abortion governmental bodies from coercing pro-life advocates to speak in favor of abortion. And this prevents governmental bodies from pushing the farce that a choice for life and a choice to end life are equal. It also ended the onerous requirement to post about things that were not being advocated.

As Thomas noted, the law “targets speakers, not speech, and imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech.” Pro-life people were the targets, and they won today.

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  • Dave M.

    One of the revealing things about the dissent is that J. Breyer equates abortion to adoption. It strongly infers that pro-aborts do indeed favor killing the child over adoption.

    • Boris

      Why would they or anyone do that? That makes no sense.

      • Hoyos

        One procedure gets you paid, the other does not. They are selling a service, grim as it is. So it does make sense.

        • Boris

          Adoption makes lawyers lots of money. Abortion doesn’t make any profit. Many abortions are done for free as a public service which is why abortion providers need donations. Abortions cost about $400 which doesn’t even come close to covering the doctor’s or hospital’s costs. A comparable procedure would cost between $4000 and $60,000. This nonsense about some big abortion industry is nothing more than part of the propaganda the far right uses to play the voters for fools.

          • Hoyos

            Dude, nothing is “free”. The money is coming from somewhere. You confuse “non profit” with “not using money”. The doctors, nurses, everybody is drawing a salary and that salary comes from providing a service.

            The dark secret is that these guys are butchers. That’s why they don’t have admitting privileges at most hospitals. These doctors are so bad at being doctors they wind up there, nobody starts off wanting to be an abortionist.

            There is definitely money in the abortion business, that’s not a conspiracy theory that’s a fact. Planned Parenthood gets money from the government, from private donors, and other sources.

          • Boris

            Explain the mathematics of how someone providing a free service makes money for providing that service. Explain exactly how $400 for a medical procedure makes a doctor any money. I have actually studied this issue. You have not. Instead you listen to politicians tell you what to believe which is just about the stupidest thing a person could do. I’m pretty sure you get your information about science from right wing science deniers as well, because you know that scientific literature uses those big college words you don’t understand. Besides Jesus hates science doesn’t he. LOL. You really should know something about an issue before you start blabbing about it and exposing your incredible willful ignorance in public.

          • Hoyos

            Are the doctors and nurses drawing a salary? Free in relation to the patient, not free as in no money changes hands. Government contractors provide “free” services all the time and make money doing so by not receiving money from the end user, but from the government.

            If you had an argument you would have made it, you haven’t so you don’t. You’re not even arguing with me but with a cartoon image in your own mind, because rage is fun.

          • Boris

            No government money goes for abortions. So that argument is a fail. I don’t need an argument because I have something you do not: evidence. Now I asked you a question and you avoided it. I’ll give you another chance. Show us all how anybody makes any money from doing abortions. If you had an answer you would have given it. You are cornered and I am about to call CHECKMATE on your sorry behind. Step up to the plate and document your claims or STHU.

          • Hoyos

            No, you claim you have evidence, you haven’t graced me with any.

            Are abortion doctors paid or not? If they are then they are making money from abortion. Are they all donating their time? Are you claiming that? Does planned parenthood have no paid employees?

            If I laced my statements with insults and declarations of victory, would you consider that an indicator that I was winning the argument?

          • Boris

            $400, how does that even cover a doctor’s costs? That’s my evidence. I said there is no such thing as a big abortion industry that is making people rich. It’s a myth coming from anti-choice politicians. In sharp contrast to most other medical procedures, the cost of an abortion has remained stable over time. This is despite increased restrictions and a decline in demand for abortions. Abortion providers have maintained lower than average fees for care compared with physicians in other specialties. Many doctors provide this care because they know the difference it can make in a woman’s life. I can’t imagine what a woman must be going through who decides to get an abortion. So I’m not about to judge either these women or the people in the medical community who provide safe abortions without having walked a few miles in their shoes. And you shouldn’t either. Again, don’t listen to politicians talk about Planned Parenthood. They took care of my friend’s testicular cancer at Planned Parenthood.

          • Hoyos

            That’s not really evidence, kind of the opposite. The doctor is getting money from somewhere, he’s manifestly not working for free. Half a billion goes to PP, it doesn’t go to abortion the same way most defense department money doesn’t go to weapons. It just funds everything else. Are fees low because they love giving abortions? Or are they still getting paid?

            I can’t imagine what’s going through someone’s mind who commits infanticide, I still think it’s awful. I’m not interested in personal judgements, many criminals are under tremendous pressure. I’m not minimizing that either. Real prisoners can break your heart. But ultimately anyone’s pain doesn’t justify murder.

            Al Capone and other criminals engaged in charity too. The charity isn’t the problem.

          • Boris

            If you want to know what abortion doctors make you can look it up. I’m doing a few other things right now. Calling abortion murder is an attempt to distort reality by distorting the language. It’s the favorite trick of religious salesmen. This is a matter of rights and public safety. A woman should have the right to decide whether she wants to endure a nine-month pregnancy and have a child. No one else whether you call it a fetus or a human or whatever has the right to someone else’s body. In countries where abortions are still illegal they occur at the same rate as in countries where they are legal but an average of 186 women die every day from botched abortions. This is the holocaust you want to bring upon this country. Now you’d probably love reading and hearing about women dying of sepsis or some other infection or bleeding to death like they do in South America every day. They deserve it in your eyes right? I don’t agree. Restricting abortions doesn’t stop people from getting abortions it only makes them more dangerous. We can say abortion is wrong if you want but forced parenthood or making abortions dangerous on purpose for no good reason is wrong too. Two wrongs don’t make a right. So can you tell me why your personal ideology is more important than public safety?

          • Hoyos

            It’s either a baby or it’s not. If it’s a baby it’s murder. After the first trimester, be honest, we all know it’s a baby, brain, heart, lungs, fingers and toes. That’s why most legal abortion countries don’t have it after the first trimester, at least that’s the way it used to be.

            A child has a right to expect its parents to care for it. That’s even in the law. Outside of the womb, a woman is obligated to use her body to support her child whether she wants to or not. If she doesn’t and the child dies of neglect that is a crime. It’s in her body but it is not her body and she doesn’t have the right to kill it anymore than she does an infant, another dependent being.

            Laws don’t prevent any type of crime entirely. They make it less likely. On matters like this, even if your numbers are correct, you can’t compare those stats. Culture, prevalence of birth control, accuracy of reporting statistics (getting accurate numbers on illegal practices is notoriously difficult), all have an impact.

            Parenthood is only “forced” in cases of rape. Any grown adult and most teenagers know the risks of the completed sexual act without birth control. You can’t jump off a building and not expect to hit the ground, even though you don’t “want to”.People are people, I know, but if you create a child you can’t just kill it.

          • Boris

            “It’s either a baby or it’s not.” If it’s a baby it’s murder.
            That isn’t a good argument. An acorn isn’t a tree and murder is a legal term and right now that term does not apply. The little bit anti-abortion legislation I have actually read doesn’t even use that terminology. You can’t state your opinions as facts. You must be a Christian. About 98 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks.
            “People are people, I know, but if you create a child you can’t just kill it.”
            You can’t force parenthood on people either. The Court did the best it could to draw a compromise. Abortions were not only legal when our Constitution was ratified they were openly advertised. Had our founders wanted to make abortions illegal they surely would have. This weighed heavily on the Court’s verdict in the Roe case. Don’t let politicians tell you that the Court misinterpreted the Constitution. It’s the anti-choice people who want to distort the Constitution and make it say something it clearly does not.
            “Laws don’t prevent any type of crime entirely. They make it less likely.”
            Really? You mean like the marijuana laws that worked so well? People are going to disobey laws that the majority of people think are unjust. And the police aren’t going to do their best to enforce them either.
            Your politicians think they can get the Supreme Court to let the states decide the abortion issue. Our rights all come from the same place, freedom of religion, of the press, of speech, of religion, gun rights and abortion rights. If you want to start letting those rights get decided by majority rule you might want to think again.

          • Boris

            “It’s either a baby or it’s not.” If it’s a baby it’s murder.
            That isn’t a good argument. An acorn isn’t a tree and murder is a legal term and right now that term does not apply. The little bit anti-abortion legislation I have actually read doesn’t even use that terminology. You can’t state your opinions as facts. You must be a Christian. About 98 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks.
            “People are people, I know, but if you create a child you can’t just kill it.”
            You can’t force parenthood on people either. The Court did the best it could to draw a compromise. Abortions were not only legal when our Constitution was ratified they were openly advertised. Had our founders wanted to make abortions illegal they surely would have. This weighed heavily on the Court’s verdict in the Roe case. Don’t let politicians tell you that the Court misinterpreted the Constitution. It’s the anti-choice people who want to distort the Constitution and make it say something it clearly does not.
            “Laws don’t prevent any type of crime entirely. They make it less likely.”
            Really? You mean like the marijuana laws that worked so well? People are going to disobey laws that the majority of people think are unjust. And the police aren’t going to do their best to enforce them either.

          • Hoyos

            Dr. Duane Ostler, a PhD in legal history, would disagree with you on the history front, he wrote about this specifically.

            If we stop calling it murder, it doesn’t make it not murder, the Soviets, by legal standards, didn’t “murder” the Kulaks, the SS didn’t “murder” Jews, but we all know they did. And again, c’mon, after 12 weeks, not 21 we all know it’s a baby.

            Laws don’t prevent murder, larceny, assault, etc., but we’re glad we have them.

          • Boris

            Dr. Duane Ostler can disagree all he wants. An intelligent person doesn’t make arguments that can easily be turned on their heads and used against them. He doesn’t have any critical thinking skills. Calling abortion “murder” doesn’t make it murder. POOF. Don’t let others make you arguments for you.

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    The four dissenting votes apparently came from a position of compromise . A compromise of the most disingenuous proportions.
    One which should raise questions about the objectivity & subsequently the suitability of these 4 persons on that clearly conflicted bench .
    Seems like convoluted rather than objective critical thinking has dominated almost half of this “noble” institution …

  • Studentenviro

    Scalia died, alas. That Clinton woman would have replaced him with a left-winger. So don’t bash anyone who voted for Trump.

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