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In a Win for Free Speech, Supreme Court Says California Can’t Force Pro-Life Centers to Promote Abortion

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in favor of free speech in NIFLA v. Becerra, a case regarding California’s attempt to force pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise the state’s free or low-cost abortion program.

The court rightly held that the California law in question, the Reproductive FACT Act, “likely violates the First Amendment” and “unduly burdens protected speech.”

In other words, California is entitled to take a position on abortion, but it cannot force others to agree with and speak its message.

In 2015, California enacted Assembly Bill 775, the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act. As we explained in a Heritage Foundation report:

The bill requires state-licensed pregnancy centers, which provide medical services such as ultrasound examinations, health provider consultations, and medical referrals, to instruct women on how to receive ‘free or low-cost access to … abortion’ in direct contradiction of their mission of providing compassionate alternatives to abortion. Failure to comply carries the threat of a civil penalty of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

Additionally, the law requires unlicensed centers that provide nonmedical services such as counseling, education, maternity clothes and baby supplies to post extensive disclaimers in as many as 13 languages that they are not a licensed medical center. These notices must be posted on-site as well as online and in print and digital advertisements. The prominence and size of the disclaimer—in addition to being compelled speech—is so voluminous that it detracts from a pregnancy center’s primary message and is so extensive that advertisements are cost prohibitive.

In an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court ruled that California’s law tried to “alter the content” of centers’ speech by forcing them to “inform women how they can obtain state-subsidized abortions—at the same time [the centers] try to dissuade women from choosing that option.”

Read the full story from The Daily Signal

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