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March 2, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) –  Eighteen influential pro-life leaders joined nearly 3,000 pro-life activists Thursday evening for a nationwide “Stop Forced Abortion Promotion” webcast.

The virtual town hall meeting aimed to build support for the NIFLA v. Becerra case which will be heard by the United States Supreme Court later this month.

NIFLA is the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, a powerhouse pro-life legal organization representing nearly 1,500 member pregnancy centers in the U.S.

At the heart of this case is “the unconstitutional California law which is compelling the staff and volunteers of pro-life pregnancy centers to violate their consciences and promote tax-funded abortions,” said David Bereit, Former CEO of 40 Days for Life, who hosted the webcast.  

“And the abortion industry is now working to roll this out and export this strong-arm tactic to other states which is unconscionable,” said Bereit.  “The government is using the very walls in the waiting rooms of pro-life pregnancy centers as billboards to advertise for abortions.”  

This will be a landmark case.  At stake is nothing less than free speech, guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment.  

“The media is already calling this ‘the most important free speech case in a generation’ with significant and far-reaching ramifications,” said Bereit.

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In particular, pro-life centers are fighting to maintain their right not to speak and to not have to post signs within their walls that are essentially posters advertising for the abortion industry.    

If the Supreme Court were to allow the current ruling to stand, failure of centers to comply with this abortion promotion mandate will result in fines and penalties that could close their doors for good.

The California law compelling pro-life pregnancy staff and volunteers to promote abortion is “like the government forcing the American Lung Association to promote cigarettes,” said Bereit.   

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, offered a similar analogy, saying that making pregnancy centers promote abortion is “like the government forcing Alcoholics Anonymous to serve cocktails” at their meetings.  He added that “non profit organizations should not have to make statements that contradict not only their speech, but their stated missions.”  

Thomas Glessner, President of NIFLA, whose organization first sued the state of California and whose case is now about to be heard before the U.S Supreme Court (SCOTUS), explained to listeners that attacks against pro-life centers by the abortion industry are being ramped up.

“In the last ten years we’ve seen a dramatic increase in efforts at legislative levels in various states to pass legislation which, if passed, would undoubtedly restrict the operations of pregnancy centers and close many of them down,” said Glessner.

“We’ve defeated these attempts––three times in Oregon, twice in Washington state, and once in Maryland,” said the NIFLA head.  “And so after those defeats, the other side decided, ‘well, we’re having a hard time winning even in pro-abortion states, so let’s try municipalities.  So they began to pass municipal ordinances in New York City, Baltimore, Montgomery County (Maryland), Austin, Texas, and we took them to court on all those municipal ordinances and we won.”

“In 2015, the state of California passed the ‘reproductive fact act,’” a law which “mandates that pro-life centers and medical clinics must post a sign in their waiting area that provides their patients with information on how to obtain a state-funded abortion.”  

“So the government is mandating pro-life centers to speak a message with which they fundamentally disagree and which violates their conscience and their reason for existing and if they don’t post that message, they’re going to be closed down.”  

This is the law about to be challenged in the highest court in the land.

“This is a straightforward free speech case,” said Michael P. Farris, President, CEO, and General Counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the lead attorney who will represent NIFLA before the nine Supreme Court judges.  He added, “The government can’t force you to say what you don’t want to say.”

Farris said that while the offensive California law claims to be aimed at regulating a lot of different groups within the Golden State, in reality it, “just falls on pro-life pregnancy centers.”  

In other words, this law is custom tailored solely to place pro-life efforts and only pro-life efforts in the crosshairs.

Many others pro-life leaders spoke briefly, delivering pointed messages underscoring the importance of the pending NIFLA/SCOTUS case.  

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, said that the California law this case “challenges is an act of desperation by a collapsing abortion industry.”

“And this isn’t just about pregnancy centers,” Fr. Pavone added, “It’s about the abortion industry trying to get all of us to help their faltering business and the failed worldview behind it.”

“If they can force pregnancy centers to point people toward abortions, they can do it to us all, including churches.”

Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America, spoke of how this California law aims to achieve exactly what has been happening at colleges and universities for a long time.  

“On campuses, we see this sort of forced speech all the time,” said Hawkins.  “The administrations try to do that.  They tell our Students for Life groups that they can’t get student government funding because ‘they only present one side of the abortion case’ or when they host an event with a pro-life speaker that we have to pay to bring in another speaker from Planned Parenthood who will present their side.”

“So I can’t emphasize enough to you just how important this case is for the rest of the pro-life movement,” added Hawkins.  

“There are nearly 2,500 pregnancy care centers dotting the landscape of America, serving over 2,000,000 people each year at absolutely no expense to taxpayers,” said FRC’s Tony Perkins.  “Why should they become billboards for abortion clinics that already have messaging advantage because most if not all receive some form of taxpayer funding?”

“Bottom line: The government should encourage this army of compassion, not discourage it with these onerous regulations.”  

Thursday evening’s massive pro-life webcast occurred just two days after Vice President Mike Pence boldly predicted that abortion will end ‘in our time.’

Pro-life supporters across the country are being asked to show up on the steps of the United States Supreme Court from 9am-12pm, March 20, 2018 for a rally as the justices inside hear oral arguments in the NIFLA v. Becerra case.