November 15, 2017

SCOTUS to review Calif. law requiring crisis pregnancy centers to post info about abortion options

Daily Briefing

    The Supreme Court on Monday announced that it will hear a case that centers on whether requiring crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post information about publicly funded abortion care and contraceptives violates free-speech rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.

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    Case details

    The case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, challenges a 2015 California law that requires CPCs, which typically counsel women against abortion, to post information about publicly funded abortion and contraceptive options, regardless of whether the centers disagree with abortion or contraceptives on religious grounds. The law also requires unlicensed, non-medical groups to clearly inform clients that they are not licensed medical providers.

    Last year, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the California law did not violate CPCs' free-speech rights. The plaintiffs then petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case, noting that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit had struck down a similar requirement in a New York City ordinance.

    Supreme Court briefings

    Plaintiffs in a brief argued that the law targets CPCs, noting that centers that provide publicly funded abortion care and contraceptive services are exempt from the law. "The state, rather than using countless alternative ways to communicate its message, including its own powerful voice, instead compels only licensed facilities that help women consider alternatives to abortion to express the government's message regarding how to obtain abortions paid for by the state," the plaintiffs argued. They added, "This compelled speech requirement drowns out the centers' [antiabortion] messages and discourages them from speaking through advertisements, because California's voluminous required statements make ads cost prohibitive."

    However, the state of California in a brief argued that the law ensures women know about the health care options available to them. The state said, "The notice that licensed facilities must give under the (law) falls well within the First Amendment's tolerance for the regulation of the practice-related speech of licensed professionals."

    According to Politico's "Pulse," the Court's eventual ruling in the case could have widespread implications, as several other states have enacted similar laws (Wolf, USA Today, 11/13; Savage, Los Angeles Times, 11/13; Barnes, Washington Post, 11/13; Liptak, New York Times, 11/13; Ehley, "Pulse," Politico, 11/14).

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