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Court strikes down Hawaii law forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortions

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HONOLULU, Hawaii, September 24, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life pregnancy centers in Hawaii cannot be forced to tell women how to get abortion referrals or financial assistance for abortions, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii ruled Thursday.

Democrat Gov. David Ige signed SB 501, or Act 200, into law in July 2017. It required all pregnancy centers in the state to post signs or offer fliers that said the “state of Hawaii provides free or low-cost access to comprehensive family-planning services,” as well as provide a web address and phone number for abortion and contraception referrals.

Centers that refused to do so were threatened with $500 fines for first offenses and $1,000 for every repeat offense. The mandate applied to both medical and non-medical locations.

The law exempted “comprehensive health care” facilities but did not define the term, which Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF’s) Sarah Kramer took to mean that the law was designed to “directly target” pro-life pregnancy centers. It “allows private citizens to file suit against pregnancy centers if they do not post this information, leaving it open to pro-abortion groups and individuals to file lawsuits when this law takes effect,” she said.

ADF and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) challenged the law on behalf of the Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor pregnancy center, A Place for Women in Waipio. The court ultimately sided with them, issuing a permanent injunction against the compelled speech portion of the law.

Judge Derrick K. Watson’s brief order specifically cited both the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court’s ruling this summer in NIFLA v. Becerra, which invalidated a similar law in California as a violation of free speech.

“Hawaii’s law was particularly egregious. Not only did it force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion, it also compelled a church to promote abortion inside its building,” NIFLA President Thomas Glessner said. “The state of Hawaii has acknowledged that its attempt to force pro-life centers and churches to advertise its abortion agenda was unconstitutional. This case constitutes a major victory for free speech and freedom of religion.”

“Hawaii’s pro-life, nonprofit pregnancy centers offer free practical resources, information, and emotional support to women—no matter what choices those women make,” Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor pastor and Place for Women president Derald Skinner added. “We’re grateful that the state has backed off its unconstitutional attack on our ministry. Our doors remain open and we continue to offer love, care, and compassion for all women and their precious little babies in our community.”

ADF also argued that Act 200 was not only unconstitutional, but that it violated the federal Weldon and Church amendments, which forbid the distribution of federal money to any federal or state agency or program that discriminates against health entities that refuse to involve themselves in abortion.

Hawaii relies on federal aid for 22.8 percent of its general revenue, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation’s most recent analysis.

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