Supreme Court strikes down California law that forced pro-life clinics to advertise abortion
A California law that required pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortion services has been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a 5-4 ruling, the court said the government cannot compel citizens to promote messages they disagree with.
"No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion," Michael Farris, who argued the case at the Supreme Court, said in a formal statement following the decision.
"In this case, the government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion," said Farris, who is president, CEO, and general counsel of the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom. "The Supreme Court said that the government can't do that, and that it must respect pro-life beliefs."
In the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the state law "unduly burdens protected speech," and in a concurring opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the government can't compel citizens to promote a message they don't agree with.
"Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions," Kennedy wrote. "Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties."
Significantly, the ruling makes no mention of religious beliefs. The issue is compelled speech regardless of whether the offending message goes against one's religion or not.
Predictably, the pro-abortion lobby condemned the decision, misrepresenting the role and mission of pro-life pregnancy centers:
In a statement posted on Twitter, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League criticized the decision, saying that the Supreme Court "ruled that unlicensed fake women's health centers are free to dress up as doctors & deliberately lie to women about their #reprohealth."
NARAL is about 20 years behind the times. Today's crisis pregnancy centers make it clear – as required by law – whether they offer medical services requiring a doctor, and they advertise adoption referrals and counseling. A woman would have to be brain-dead to be "tricked" into thinking a pro-life center offers abortion services or abortion counseling.
The court did concede that California could try to rewrite the law requiring the posting of pro-abortion messages at pro-life centers. But the principle upheld by the court appears to be fairly broad, and the state will have a hard time getting around the ruling.
The decision reminds us that there are indeed, two sides to the abortion debate, and both deserve to be heard.