This morning, in their 5-4 decision in NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld free speech rights for pregnancy centers. They struck down the 2015 California state law that forced pregnancy centers to promote abortion.
Justice Thomas, writing for the majority, stated, “the licensed notice likely violates the first amendment.” And later, “the unlicensed notice unduly burdens protected speech.” (The licensed notice pertains to pregnancy centers that are licensed medical clinics in the state of California. The unlicensed notice refers to pregnancy resource centers that do not provide medical services.)
Justice Thomas went on to say that “Content-based laws ‘target speech based on its communicative content’ and ‘are presumptively unconstitutional and may be justified only if the government proves that they are narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests.’” He adds, “For example, one of the state-sponsored services that the licensed notice requires petitioners to advertise is abortion—the very practice that petitioners are devoted to opposing.”
The unlicensed notice placed requirements on pregnancy centers’ advertising and reception areas. It prescribed a 29 word notice in up to 13 languages. This notice stated that the center is not a licensed medical facility and has no licensed medical provider. The court had this to say about it, “the FACT Act unduly burdens protected speech. It imposes a government-scripted, speaker-based disclosure requirement that is wholly disconnected from the State’s informational interest.”
We were thrilled that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down these burdensome laws in California. This ruling sets a precedent for pregnancy medical clinics and pregnancy resource centers.
As a result, clinics like ours in California can continue to provide pregnancy testing and ultrasound. They can offer help for women facing unintended pregnancies. They can provide life-affirming options and support according to their missions and deeply held beliefs.
A decision upholding this law would have had far-reaching consequences for every pregnancy center in the nation. The law was passed in California, but would not have stayed there.
If this law had been upheld by the Supreme Court it would have opened the door for any state or municipality to compel speech. Similar laws would soon have been enacted in places like Madison or Dane County. These laws would have meant we would need to advertise for the abortion industry, face heavy fines or close our doors.
Roland Warren, president of Care Net National stated, “This is a huge win for freedom of speech and for pregnancy centers across the country.”
We are very grateful that the Supreme Court recognizes the value of protecting free speech and struck down this discriminatory law.
Because of their decision, women in California and across the nation still have places to go that offer life-affirming options. Women who feel abortion is their only option, or who feel pressured by their circumstances, have opportunity to find options. Because pregnancy clinics are free to advertise their services — and not abortion services — women can find help and support in their communities. They can consider decisions that are in the best interests of themselves and their preborn children.