This June, in a massive victory for pro-lifers and pregnancy resource centers (PRCs), the Supreme Court struck down a California law forcing PRCs to promote abortions. In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the nation’s highest court ruled 5-4 against state-sponsored advertising for abortion.
The 2015 law, signed by Governor Jerry Brown, forced every PRC to post information in 48-point font — sometimes in as many as 13 languages — as to where mothers could get a free or low-cost abortion. Centers were subject to a $500 fine the first day and up to $1,000 every additional day for every instance a notice was not communicated to a client.
In essence, the law forced about 200 PRCs in California to be “abortion referral agencies.” It required pregnancy centers to tell their clients that “California has public programs that provide immediate or low-cost access to … abortion” and to instruct their clients to “contact the county social services office” at a particular telephone number “to determine whether you qualify.” It also required unlicensed centers to post signage saying the center is not licensed as a medical facility.
Oregon Right to Life Executive Director Lois Anderson applauded the Court’s decision saying, “I’m very relieved. If California’s law had stood, it would only have been a matter of time before a similar law passed in Oregon.” The ruling also resolves similar cases in other states.
Alliance Defending Freedom President Michael Farris explained, “No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion. A government that tells you what you can’t say is dangerous, but a government that tells you what you must say — under threat of severe punishment — is alarming.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins offered this reaction to the decision: “The First Amendment is clear in its wording and guarantees all Americans are legally protected from compelled speech by their government. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the state of California was clearly in the wrong in this case and all Americans, whether pro-life or not, should be relieved with the Supreme Court’s decision. What if the government made a vegan grocer to post ads for the local butcher shop? Everyone would agree that’s not fair. This case is no different and, thankfully, the Court recognized that fact.”
Approximately 2,750 centers around the U.S. provide a range of free services for millions of women, as well as tens of thousands of men, at nearly $161 million in annual cost savings to their communities.
Free Abortions at Universities Vetoed
In late August, California legislators passed a bill that would have required California colleges and universities to provide abortion drugs up to 10 weeks of pregnancy at campus student health centers. On September 30, this first-of-a-kind bill was surprisingly vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown, who called it “unnecessary.” While this is a victory, the bill’s sponsor has already promised to reintroduce it next year.
Under this kind of extreme legislation, taxpayer-funded schools would be required to cover abortion in their student health insurance. It does nothing to provide support for pregnant and parenting students who want to keep their babies.
A Food and Drug Administration report found that 22 women have died when using the abortion drug, more than 1,000 were hospitalized, and nearly 600 experienced severe blood loss that required transfusions. College health centers do not have equipment that is vitally important in determining the baby’s gestational age and the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy.
Some officials have voiced concerns including costs to student health centers, administrative costs, liability due to complications, and campus security.
Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins argues, “Schools should be focused on educating the next generation, not ensuring that it’s easy to end the lives of future generations.” She pledged that her organization will continue to work†to prevent this effort from going to other states and stand with healthcare workers whose conscience rights may be violated.