LOS ANGELES — Under threat of a lawsuit, a pro-life pregnancy center in California has agreed to comply with a state law requiring that clients be provided with information about government programs that offer free or low-cost abortions.
As previously reported, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Reproductive FACT Act into law in October, a measure that has been dubbed the “bully bill” by pro-life groups in the state. The bill had been authored by Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu, who outlined in the law that he takes issue with pregnancy centers that don’t provide abortion referrals to women.
“The author contends that, unfortunately, there are nearly 200 licensed and unlicensed clinics known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in California whose goal is to interfere with women’s ability to be fully informed and exercise their reproductive rights, and that CPCs pose as full-service women’s health clinics, but aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions,” it reads.
The legislation therefore requires that licensed pregnancy care centers provide the following message to clients in print: “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion, for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at (telephone number).”
Violators will be fined $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each infringement afterward.
As the Pregnancy Counseling Center of Mission Hills failed to comply with the law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer gave the facility 30 days last month to post the necessary signage.
But as the center still had not posted the notice by the Aug. 14 deadline, he moved to file a lawsuit to force the facility to conform. His lawsuit included a request for an emergency injunction, and a penalty of $2,500 for each day of non-compliance.
The Pregnancy Counseling Center of Mission Hills currently provides pregnancy testing, adoption referrals, pro-life counseling and information about abortion methods and their risks to the mother.
“The reason for the urgency in my view is that when a woman is desperately seeking the kind of counseling that would lead them to come to one of these centers, it is imperative that she has full information about her reproductive choices,” Feuer told reporters.
“I pledged to protect a woman’s right to have accurate information before she makes the most personal and sensitive of choices, and I meant it,” he said. “We will aggressively enforce the FACT Act, taking any action necessary against those who violate it.”
On Tuesday, an attorney for the pregnancy center notified Feuer that the facility would comply with the requirement.
However, as previously reported, a number of pro-life centers in the state have filed legal challenges out of their refusal to comply with the law, which they state amounts to unlawful compelled speech.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is representing LivingWell Medical Clinic, Pregnancy Center of the North Coast and Confidence Pregnancy Center, while the Pacific Justice Institute is representing A Woman’s Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic, Crisis Pregnancy Center of Northern California and Alternatives Women’s Center. Advocates for Faith and Freedom is representing Go Mobile for Life.
“I will not post that notice in our clinic. I would rather close the clinic than post that notice,” Scott Scharpen, pastor at Rock Valley Christian Church in Murietta, said in a statement released by his attorneys with Advocates for Faith and Freedom.
“If the California state government gets away with telling pregnancy clinics what to say and even how to say it, then ALL faith-based businesses are at risk of being bullied into delivering the government’s mandated speech,” he said.
Attorney Robert Tyler said that the Reproductive FACT Act is illegal under the California Constitution.
“Article 1, section 2 of the California Constitution provides greater protection for free speech then does the First Amendment,” he outlined. “Under the ‘liberty of speech clause’ in the California Constitution, the government has no right to compel individuals or corporations to adopt the government’s view on abortion and has no right to compel them to advertise and promote abortions.”