By: George Will – nationalreview.com – March 18, 2018
The Supreme Court must strike down a California law that compels pro-life crisis-pregnancy centers’ speech in violation of the First Amendment.
Governments routinely behave badly, but sometimes their mean-spiritedness comes to the Supreme Court’s attention. On Tuesday, it will hear oral arguments concerning the constitutionality of measures that California’s government has taken to compel pro-life entities to speak against their own mission.
Crisis-pregnancy centers are nonprofit facilities usually owned and operated by people with religious objections to abortion. Some centers are licensed medical facilities providing pregnancy testing, ultrasound examinations, medical referrals, prenatal vitamins, etc. Other centers are unlicensed because they provide only nonmedical services (self-administered pregnancy-testing kits, parenting-preparation training, baby clothes, diapers, etc.).
A 2015 California law requires licensed crisis-pregnancy centers to tell clients (in pamphlets, in waiting-room signs) this: “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care and abortion for eligible women.” Unlicensed centers are required to notify clients that the center “is not licensed as a medical facility by the state of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.”
So, government compels licensed centers to provide free advertisements for government-provided abortions. And government compels unlicensed centers to say — in large fonts, in as many as 13 languages, even on their own websites — that they do not have medical providers that the government itself says, by not requiring them to be licensed, are not necessary for the services they provide. The government’s obvious nasty purpose is to make the unlicensed centers’ clients unnecessarily uneasy.
California tailored the law to target only crisis centers: It exempts from the compelled-speech requirements all women’s-health-services providers that dispense abortifacients. The crisis centers are incorporated as religious organizations and their mission is dictated by the content of their beliefs. The pro-choice government is targeting the centers to exercise one-sided influence on some women’s choices. The Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro, author of an amicus brief supporting the crisis centers, says it is telling that California has no comparable law requiring abortion providers to post advertisements for adoption agencies or other alternatives to abortion.
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