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Trump admin investigating Hawaii for forcing pregnancy centers to advertise abortion

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WASHINGTON, D.C., May 2, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has opened an investigation into the state of Hawaii for forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to give women information on how to obtain abortions and contraception.

Hawaii’s Democratic Gov. David Ige signed SB 501 into law on July 11, 2017. It requires all pregnancy centers in the state to post signs or offer fliers that say 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 would be fined $500 for first offenses and $1,000 for every repeat offense. The mandate applies to both medical and non-medical locations.

The pro-life Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has challenged similar laws in multiple states, and in September asked HHS’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to investigate whether SB 501 and a similar Illinois law violate the Hawaii state constitution and the U.S. Constitution, as well as the federal Weldon and Church amendments.

These amendments forbid the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education from distributing money to any federal or state agency or program that discriminates against health entities that refuse to involve themselves in abortion. They forbid recipients of various federal grants, loans, or contracts from engaging in such discrimination.

Hawaii relies on federal aid for 22.8 percent of its general revenue, according to the Tax Foundation’s most recent analysis. In 2014, Hawaii received approximately $2.8 billion in total federal aid.

ADF filed the complaints on behalf of Hawaii’s A Place for Women pregnancy center as well as an Illinois pregnancy center and multiple Illinois doctors. On Monday, it revealed that while it is still awaiting a decision on the Illinois complaints, OCR will investigate Hawaii.

“OCR has reviewed the Complaint and determined that it has sufficient authority and cause to investigate the allegations under one or more of these laws,” OCR Pacific Region manager Michael Leoz wrote in a reply letter. “Therefore, we have initiated an investigation and will contact you should we need any additional information.”

“No one should be forced to provide free advertising for the abortion industry—least of all pro-life pregnancy centers,” said ADF attorney Elissa Graves. “Furthermore, the law simply doesn’t allow it. States that require pro-life doctors and staff to act contrary to their conscience don’t qualify for federal funds. HHS is right to take action in light of the obvious violations of the Church and Weldon amendments.”

In a previous analysis, ADF’s Sarah Kramer noted that SB 501 exempts “comprehensive health care” facilities from the requirement, but does not define the term, indicating that the law was designed to “directly target” pro-life pregnancy centers.

“It also allows private citizens to file suit against pregnancy centers if they do not post this information,” she added, “leaving it open to pro-abortion groups and individuals to file lawsuits when this law takes effect.”

Responding to the news, a special assistant to Hawaii Attorney General Russell Suzuki told the pro-abortion Rewire.News only that his office “will not speculate about the future application of Hawaii’s law.”

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