A federal judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction against a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy centers to advocate for abortion.
Under the law, pro-life pregnancy centers must give information about abortion even though they exist to offer abortion alternatives, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Matt Bowman argued during a Jan. 28 hearing.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) has sought an injunction with ADF’s help since October. NIFLA includes 1,350 pro-life pregnancy resource centers, including 115 in California.
But Judge John A. Houston refused to put the law on hold while the lawsuit proceeds, becoming the third federal judge to do so. He indicated during the Feb. 12 hearing that he thought the required information was necessary for women to make “an informed decision.”
California’s “Reproductive Fact Act” took effect Jan. 1. It requires licensed, religious, pregnancy resource centers to inform women, with either posted signage or a handout, that the state offers free abortions for qualifying women. It specifies the inclusion of a phone number for a county social services office that offers free abortions through the state’s Medi-Cal healthcare system. The law mandates the time of distribution and the font size for the signs and handouts. It also requires unlicensed centers to inform visitors that they are not state-approved.
The state currently has 150 local crisis pregnancy centers affected by the law.
Because the law requires the centers to convey the information through signage, its supporters claim it doesn’t violate free speech rights. But the director of Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center, one of the centers challenging the law, disagrees.
“What we wish those in the media and the public so greatly influenced by them would understand is that posting a sign at FPRC or providing a referral phone number on documentation from our center to another service provider is verbalizing it,” Carolyn Koole told Pregnancy Help News.
The law also carries hefty fines: $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. The New York Times reported many of the pregnancy centers have yet to comply, but NARAL Pro-Choice California plans to monitor the centers.
Despite the string of legal losses in California, past court precedent sides with the pregnancy centers. Courts have struck down similar laws passed in Maryland, Texas, and New York.
“We cannot allow this intrusion into the religious freedom of our pro-life members in California,” said Anne O’Connor, president of legal affairs at NIFLA. “If this act is not successfully challenged, then other states, prompted by Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, will pass similar legislation forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to become abortion referral agencies.”
— by Courtney Crandell | WNS