(Tribune Washington Bureau) The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear an antiabortion group’s challenge to a California law that requires “crisis pregnancy centers” to notify patients that the state offers subsidies for contraception and abortion.
The challengers say the disclosure law violates the 1st Amendment because it forces the faith-based pregnancy centers to send a message that conflicts with their aim of encouraging childbirth, not abortion.
The case presents a clash between the state’s power to regulate the medical profession and the Constitution’s protection for the freedom of speech.
California lawmakers passed the disclosure law two years ago after concluding the more 200 pregnancy centers in the state sometimes misled or confused women into believing they provided the full range of medical care, including abortions. The law says these centers must disclose whether they have a medical license and have medical professionals available. They must also post a notice in the waiting room that says the state of California makes available free or low-cost prenatal care, contraception or abortion to eligible women.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which says it represents 110 centers, sued to block the law, calling it “compelled speech” that violates the 1st Amendment. Two other clinics sued as well but the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law last year. In a 3-0 ruling, it said the state had broad power to regulate medical providers to protect patients. And it said the disclosures did not violate the 1st Amendment because they stated facts and did not “encourage” women to seek an abortion.
The justices are to hear arguments in NIFLA vs. Becerra early next year and issue a ruling by late June.
It will be the second major case this term which arises from a conservative, free-speech challenge to a liberal state law. On Dec. 5, the justices will hear the case of the Colorado baker who refuses to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage and was charged with violating the state’s civil rights law. Lawyers for the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom appealed both cases to the Supreme Court.
Republished with permission from Tribune Washington Bureau via iCopyright license.