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Supreme Court’s pivotal free speech ruling in NIFLA v. Becerra invalidates state law

Related Case: Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor v. Suzuki

HONOLULU – A federal district court struck down a Hawaii law forcing pregnancy centers and pro-life doctors to advertise for the abortion industry Thursday, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision affirming free speech in NIFLA v. Becerra.

“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates his or her beliefs, especially on deeply divisive subjects like abortion,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot, vice president of the ADF Center for Life. “In NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court affirmed that we don’t force people to say things they don’t believe. For that reason, the district court was correct to permanently halt Hawaii’s enforcement of Act 200’s compelled speech requirement.”

In Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor v. Suzuki, ADF attorneys challenged Senate Bill 501 (later retitled Act 200) on behalf of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor’s pregnancy center, “A Place for Women in Waipio,” and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which has five pregnancy center affiliates in Hawaii. Act 200 required pro-life pregnancy centers to direct women to a state agency that provides abortion referrals and funding. It would have required pro-life centers to post large signs or provide notice to clients that the state of Hawaii “has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services,” which include abortion-inducing drugs.
 
But in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in NIFLA v. Becerra, the Hawaii attorney general agreed that the compelled speech mandate at the heart of the law was unconstitutional. On Thursday, District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson held as much when he declared that portion of the law unconstitutional and permanently enjoined the state of Hawaii from enforcing it. 
 
“Hawaii’s law was particularly egregious. Not only did it force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion, it also compelled a church to promote abortion inside its building,” said NIFLA President Thomas Glessner. “The state of Hawaii has acknowledged that its attempt to force pro-life centers and churches to advertise its abortion agenda was unconstitutional. This case constitutes a major victory for free speech and freedom of religion.” 

“Hawaii’s pro-life, nonprofit pregnancy centers offer free practical resources, information, and emotional support to women—no matter what choices those women make,” said Derald Skinner, pastor of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor and president of “A Place for Women in Waipio. “We’re grateful that the state has backed off its unconstitutional attack on our ministry. Our doors remain open, and we continue to offer love, care, and compassion for all women and their precious little babies in our community.”

In NIFLA v. Becerra, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote on behalf of the majority that “the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail…. This Court’s precedents are deeply skeptical of laws that ‘distinguis[h] among different speakers, allowing speech by some but not others.’”

James Hochberg of Honolulu is among the nearly 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF and serves as local counsel for Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor and NIFLA.
 
  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh), Hochberg (HOAK’-burg)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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