Supreme Court to Hear Big Pro-Life Case Next Year

However the Supreme Court rules, the national impact will be huge.

By Liberty McArtor Published on November 13, 2017

A major pro-life case will go before the Supreme Court next year.

SCOTUS announced Monday it will hear National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. The case deals with free speech rights of pro-life pregnancy centers. The Court will decide whether California is violating such centers’ rights by making them promote abortion.

“We are very optimistic and hopeful that the Supreme Court will demonstrate to not only the state of California, but to other states, that forced speech … is just not acceptable,” said Kevin Theriot of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). 

ADF represents National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA). NIFLA is the group suing California.

The FACT Act

The case began in 2015 after California passed the FACT Act. Standing for “Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency,” the law forces pro-life centers to post signs promoting abortion. 

As National Review reported in 2016, pro-life centers must post the following wording:

California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number].

The sign must be posted in a “conspicuous place.” It also must be 22-point font or greater.

The law applies to both licensed and non-licensed pregnancy centers. Non-licensed centers must post that they have “no licensed medial provider.” Non-licensed centers cannot offer services such as ultrasounds, Theriot explained. He and ADF CEO Michael Farris spoke with press in a phone briefing Monday.

Punishing Pro Lifers

The law only targets pro-life pregnancy centers. “Information about abortion is just about everywhere,” Theriot says on ADF’s website. “So the government doesn’t need to punish pro-life centers for declining to advertise for the very act they can’t promote.”

Farris said California is elevating speech it favors over speech it doesn’t favor.

But the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t see it that way. Last year, it sided with California. According to Theriot, the Ninth Circuit incorrectly applied informed consent laws to pregnancy centers. Informed consent laws are generally meant for doctors and their patients.

“Pro-life pregnancy centers aren’t cutting anyone, so these regulations shouldn’t apply [to] them under this legal principle of state oversight,” Theriot told National Review. 

“This law goes way behind the informed consent for a medical procedure,” he added Monday. 

ADF asked the Supreme Court to hear the case earlier this year.

Big Implications

However the Supreme Court rules, the national impact will be huge. Other states have already adopted similar laws. The ruling could affect them as well. 

There is even a possibility that pro-life ultrasound laws could be affected. Twenty-six states require that women get an ultrasound before an abortion. Depending on how the Supreme Court approaches the case, those laws could come into question, Farris said.

However, he thinks the court will take a more narrow focus. Since the pro-life centers are not medical facilities, it will likely rule on “pure free speech grounds,” he said.

Plus, he noted, California doesn’t have ultrasound laws.

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No matter what happens, it’s sure to be a pivotal moment in America’s ongoing pro-life versus pro-choice battle. 

“The implications of the Supreme Court’s decision in this case will reverberate nationwide,” NIFLA president Thomas Glessner said in a press release Monday. He called the FACT Act one of the “most flagrant violations of constitutional religious and free speech rights in the nation.”

The Supreme Court will hear the case early next year. Expect a decision by late June.

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