BLOGFree Speech on Trial at the Supreme Court Today – 5 Things You Need to Know

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | March 20, 2018

In the span of just three short months, we find ourselves before the U.S. Supreme Court once again after presenting oral arguments in the case of Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips in December.

Today, Alliance Defending Freedom is arguing before the Court on behalf of our ally the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates and its affiliated pregnancy centers in California. We are asking the Supreme Court to uphold free speech for pro-life pregnancy centers across California, where a law forces them to advertise for the abortion industry.

According to state law, pro-life pregnancy centers that are medically licensed are required to post a sign or provide a notice in their center stating that California offers free or low-cost abortions. They must also include a phone number women can call to get more information. Additionally, the law forces pro-life pregnancy centers that provide no medical services to post a disclaimer in their center and in their advertising wrongly implying that they should be licensed. The law even dictates large font size and multiple languages for these disclaimers that crowd out the centers’ own message!

If these pregnancy centers refuse to comply, they face a $500 fine for the first offense and a $1,000 fine for every offense after that. This places these pregnancy centers into a position where they must choose to either go against their mission or pay crippling fines that could force them to close their doors.

That certainly doesn’t sound like America.

Here’s what you need to know about this case and today’s oral arguments:

1. This case is about free speech.

California may be the state in question here, but the case may have major implications for freedom of speech in this country. Just as the government should not have the power to silence the viewpoints it doesn’t like, it also should not have the power to force its citizens to promote viewpoints that violate their beliefs or values. If the government can tell these pregnancy centers to promote abortion – a practice that directly contradicts their mission – it won’t stop there. What viewpoints would they target next?

2. The Supreme Court has already ruled that government cannot compel speech.

As I noted previously, the Supreme Court has already ruled on this issue in Riley v. National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina. In that case, “the Court ruled that the government ‘may not substitute its judgment as to how best to speak for that of speakers and listeners; free and robust debate cannot thrive if directed by the government.’ The First Amendment, the Court noted, ‘presume[s] that speakers, not the government, know best both what they want to say and how to say it.’ Yet, this California law allows the government to dictate what these pro-life pregnancy centers say, how they say it, and when they say it.”

3. The California law specifically targets pro-life pregnancy centers.

The law, sponsored and supported by pro-abortion legislators and organizations, is written in such a way that it applies only to centers with pro-life viewpoints. Centers with pro-abortion viewpoints are exempt from the law. The Act’s sponsor even went so far as to call the existence of these pro-life pregnancy centers “unfortunate” because they “aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions.”

4. Allowing this law to stand would limit the choices of women in California who are facing an unplanned pregnancy.

These pro-life pregnancy centers exist to provide women with the help and hope they need to choose life for their unborn babies. They provide important material resources such as diapers, wipes, clothes, and formula. Some provide valuable information or offer classes on childbirth and parenting. The centers that are medically licensed can provide pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and STI testing. Many women facing an unplanned pregnancy feel that they have no option besides abortion – they feel they don’t have the emotional, material, or financial support they need to have a baby. These pregnancy centers step in the gap, providing the information and resources women need to make an informed decision that is best for both mom and baby.

5. ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris is arguing before the court today.

As ADF goes before the U.S. Supreme Court today to represent NIFLA and these pregnancy centers, please keep the legal team in your prayers. Michael Farris will be presenting the main arguments before the court. Pray for wisdom and the words to say as he argues. Pray that he would have favor with the nine Supreme Court justices. And if you’re reading this after oral arguments have taken place, please pray that the justices will rule in favor of free speech and the sanctity of life.

Your free speech is at stake in this case.

What the Supreme Court decides in this case could dramatically impact free speech for us all. We ask for your continued prayers and support as we stand before the Supreme Court today. To stay up to date on this case and to hear when the Supreme Court issues its ruling, sign up to receive email updates from the legal team representing these pro-life pregnancy centers.
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Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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