Published On: Sat, Oct 29th, 2016

ADF files petition against California’s 9th circuit court ruling to force promotion of abortion

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision earlier this month upholding a California law mandating that all licensed pregnancy centers “disseminate to clients” a message promoting public programs with “free or low-cost access” to abortion and contraceptive services.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a rehearing petition Friday in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Harris.

The law, dubbed “The Reproductive FACT Act” by its supporters went into effect on January 1st and requires pregnancy centers to post the notice that, “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].”

photo/ OpenClipartVectors via pixabay

photo/ OpenClipartVectors via pixabay

It fines pregnancy centers that fail to disseminate this message “a civil penalty of five hundred dollars ($500) for a first offense and one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each subsequent offense.”

The three pregnancy care centers involved in the lawsuit, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, Pregnancy Care Center, and Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center are all religiously affiliated non-profits and claim that the law infringes upon their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.

“All Americans should be free to speak or not to speak without being threatened by the government,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Matt Bowman.

“But California law unjustly forces pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion under the threat of severe punishment if they don’t comply. Unfortunately, a 9th Circuit panel ignored this clear violation of constitutionally-protected freedom and issued a decision that conflicts with Supreme Court precedent and rulings by federal courts across the country. Alliance Defending Freedom has asked the full 9th Circuit to rehear this case and to preserve freedom for pro-life pregnancy centers, which offer real hope and help to women and girls, something the abortion industry does not.”

The court countered the pregnancy centers’ First Amendment complaints in the decision by arguing that the required message merely “informs the reader only of the existence of publicly-funded family-planning services,” and “does not contain any more speech than necessary, nor does it encourage, suggest, or imply that women should use those state-funded services.”

The court argued that “California has a substantial interest in the health of its citizens, including ensuring that its citizens have access to and adequate information about constitutionally protected medical services like abortion.”

The court concluded that the law is a “content-based regulation that does not discriminate based on viewpoint.”


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