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Third lawsuit filed against anti-life California law

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SACRAMENTO, California, December 11, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – California's new law forcing pregnancy care centers to recommend abortions faces a new lawsuit – this time from a pastor who runs a mobile pro-life clinic.

In October, California's self-described "Catholic" governor, Jerry Brown, signed "The Reproductive FACT Act" into law. The measure forces pro-life clinics and medical clinics licensed by the state to tell women where to obtain abortions. Additionally, a document with this information is to be posted and/or distributed at the clinic.

According to the law, the document must say: "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]."

Pro-life centers that don't provide medical services must post signs in two "clear and conspicuous" locations, saying, "This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services."

Two lawsuits have already been filed on behalf of pro-life clinics – one by the Pacific Justice Institute and the other by The National Center for Law and Policy in tandem with the Alliance Defending Freedom. The newest one comes from Pastor Scott Scharpen, who runs a mobile pregnancy care center.

In a statement from attorneys at the Advocates for Faith and Freedom, Scharpen says he "will not post that notice in our clinic. I would rather close the clinic than post that notice."

"Now, by law, we are required to provide referral information to a woman for services that we find morally and ethically objectionable, namely abortion," he continued.

Scharpen's mobile clinic, Go Mobile for Life, gives women free ultrasounds. He called his work "a ministry."

"We share the gospel with them. Our slogan is 'GO serve women, GO save lives and GO share Jesus,'" he stated.

According to Scharpen, "if the California state government gets away with telling pregnancy clinics what to say and even how to say it, then ALL faith-based businesses are at risk of being bullied into delivering the government's mandated speech. We must stand up and fight this unconstitutional law for the benefit of all people!"

In October, Alliance Defending Freedom's Matt Bowman said in a statement that "[p]regnancy centers, which offer real help and hope to women, shouldn't be punished by political allies of the abortion industry. Forcing pro-life centers to promote abortion and recite the government's messages is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms."

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In a statement to LifeSiteNews, Heartbeat International president Peggy Hartshorn said, "The so-called 'Reproductive FACT Act' is an unveiled attempt by the abortion industry – and the politicians whose campaigns it underwrites – to trample on the free speech rights of California's community-supported pregnancy help centers and medical clinics.

"The abortion lobby has made it clear that it will go to any lengths necessary to present abortion as the only state-approved (and taxpayer funded) choice for women in an unexpected pregnancy. We stand with the life-affirming outreaches and the legal teams representing them in calling for the reversal of this unjust law. 

"Can't elected officials in California find a better use for their time than carrying the water for big abortion?" asked the longtime pregnancy care center leader.

Parts of the California bill's law are similar to requirements in municipalities across the country – specifically, the requirement to note if doctors are not on site – that have not fared well in court.

A LifeSiteNews investigation found that NARAL had colluded with officials in Montgomery County, Maryland to push a similar ordinance, only to have multiple judges declare it unconstitutional.

Pro-life clinics have made legal progress against a similar measure in Baltimore, Maryland. However, a judge in San Francisco upheld the language, which is required only of pro-life clinics and not of their pro-abortion counterparts.

A number of municipalities have used reports from NARAL Pro-Choice America, allegedly based upon "undercover" investigations, to claim that pro-life clinics lie to women. However, no evidence outside unsubstantiated written claims were presented in the Montgomery County case, leading the Clinton-appointed judge who ruled in favor of the pro-life clinic, Centro Tepeyac, to observe that the people who accused the centers of spreading "misinformation" were "universally volunteers from a pro-choice organization sent to investigate practices" at the centers.

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