Should pro-life pregnancy centers be forced to advertise for abortion? Most of us would say the answer is an obvious “no,” but in several states, there are laws on the books that require just that.
We all know that the First Amendment protects our right to speak freely without fear of government censorship, but we often do not think about the reverse of this. The First Amendment also protects us from compelled speech or a situation where the government forces us to say something we do not want to say. While compelled speech may sound like a hypothetical scenario discussed only by law students, a real life example of this happened to pro-life pregnancy centers in California.
A California law required pro-life pregnancy centers to point the way to abortions through their advertising and, in some situations, through their counseling services. Obviously, these centers exist to help women discover alternatives to abortion, so this law required these centers to go against their very mission. Worse: it appeared that this law specifically targeted pro-life centers.
The centers, partnering with National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), brought this case all the way to the Supreme Court, where Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented them. And, thankfully, this past June, the Supreme Court ruled in NIFLA v. Becerra that the California law violated the First Amendment and sent the case back to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Pro-life pregnancy centers in California have just won a major victory at the Supreme Court, but the fight for their First Amendment freedoms is not over yet. Now, the Ninth Circuit has returned the case to the trial court level, where pregnancy centers will likely be awarded an injunction—an order that officially exempts them from the California law.
Meanwhile, ADF is also representing pregnancy centers in other parts of the country against similar laws that compel them to speak against their mission. ADF has filed a state and federal lawsuit in Illinois and a federal lawsuit in Hawaii challenging these laws—and the Supreme Court victory for California pro-life centers can only help pro-life advocates in these states.
Thankfully, there is encouraging movement in these cases. Courts in Illinois have agreed to halt enforcement of the law while the case is ongoing. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to investigate the state of Hawaii for forcing pregnancy centers and pro-life doctors to advertise for the abortion industry.
But the fight is not over, and ADF is dedicated to ensuring that our constitutional freedoms are protected at every level—from trial court to the Supreme Court.
Laws that compel speech—like those in California, Hawaii, and Illinois—are contrary not only to the First Amendment but to the very heart of our Constitution, which protects the rights of all people no matter what their beliefs are.