WASHINGTON, D.C., June 26, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The U.S. Supreme Court delivered pro-life pregnancy centers a major win Tuesday, drawing celebration from pro-lifers and scorn from abortion advocates.
In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the court struck down a California law forcing pregnancy centers to provide written information advertising how to obtain abortions in the state at taxpayer expense, and requiring those without medical licenses to post disclaimers that they do not offer medical services. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the 5-4 majority opinion, which said the law violated the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantees.
“The right of free speech protected in the First Amendment not only includes the right to speak, but also the right to not be compelled by government to speak a message with which one disagrees and which violates one’s conscience,” NIFLA president and founder Thomas Glessner said in response to the news. “The court correctly found that the California law clearly offends this principle. We are very pleased with the court’s decision and for what it means for the many pro-life centers that serve and empower women in California and throughout the country.”
“NIFLA v. Becerra is not just about whether or not to hand out abortion information on a piece of paper or post it on the walls of our pro-life centers,” NIFLA vice president and the case’s co-counsel Anne O’Connor added. “It is about the right belonging to all American citizens to be free from government-compelled speech, and from being coerced into promoting a message that contradicts their values.”
Alliance Defending Freedom CEO and chief counsel Michael Farris, who served as NIFLA’s lead attorney before the court, praised the court for affirming free speech. “Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a diverse society like ours,” he explained. “They enable us to peacefully coexist with one another. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to others.”
“We applaud the Supreme Court for upholding the free speech rights of these centers,” Live Action founder and president Lila Rose said. “Pro-life pregnancy centers are doing some of the most important work in our communities today. They are providing advocacy, education, baby supplies, parenting classes, and maternity care to women in need.”
“We are extremely pleased to see the nation’s pro-life pregnancy centers and their advocates vindicated by the Supreme Court,” Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan said. “The Court sent a clear message today that California’s cruel mandate unacceptably infringes on pregnancy centers’ First Amendment liberties – a ruling that will reverberate across the country wherever these remarkable nonprofits have been subjected to state bullying as they strive to carry out their mission of love.”
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, called Tuesday a “great day for free speech, religious liberty and the pro-life movement,” and expressed hope that the court’s rebuke of California would lead similar laws to “fall out of favor in the pro-abortion camp.”
“Those of us with deeply held beliefs that abortion is a moral injustice now cannot be forced to capitulate to an unjust government demand that we promote this human rights abuse,” Operation Rescue president Troy Newman said. “We are grateful to Tom Glessner and the National Institute of Family and Life Associates (NIFLA) for bearing the burden of challenging this unconstitutional law.”
Meanwhile, the abortion lobby responded with predictable outrage.
“Anti-abortion zealots are allowed to dress up as doctors & lure women into fake clinics, then lie to them about their health options” thanks to the ruling, Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens claimed, referencing a host of false claims commonly leveled at pregnancy centers.
NARAL complained that Justice Neil Gorsuch, nominated last year by President Donald Trump, cast the deciding vote while “sit[ting] in a stolen seat,” invoking the common liberal complaint that former President Barack Obama’s nominee for the same vacancy, Judge Merrick Garland, was somehow entitled to it. In fact, the US Constitution does not require the Senate to schedule votes on, let alone support, every presidential nominee.
But while the ruling is widely being recognized as a pro-life victory, some are warning that the narrow margin remains cause for concern. “The fact that this case was decided only 5-4 bodes ill for the future of free speech under Court jurisprudence,” Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro wrote. “This should have been an easy case. But the Left’s agenda is obvious: to label as much speech as possible ‘commercial,’ and then to regulate it along content-based lines.”
“Four justices of the Supreme Court voted for forcing pro-abortion speech by pro-life pregnancy centers,” Catholic Vote added. “The Supreme Court matters, folks. Elections matter. Voting matters.”
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said that had the ruling gone the other way, “it would have likely inspired similar laws around the country, effectively forcing PRCs to shut their doors.”
“The government has no business forcing these centers to violate their first amendment right to free speech and, in doing so, work against their life-affirming mission. We applaud the Supreme Court for preserving these centers’ free speech right and allowing them to continue offering such comprehensive and critical support to women in need, including providing over 100 million in free services (child care, clothing, diapers, transportation, etc.) annually,” she said.