SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal appeals court has rejected a request for an injunction against a California law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to provide information on government abortion programs.
“California has a substantial interest in the health of its citizens, including ensuring that its citizens have access to and adequate information about constitutionally-protected medical services like abortion,” wrote Judge Dorothy Nelson, appointed to the bench by then President Jimmy Carter, on behalf of a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“And given that many of the choices facing pregnant women are time sensitive, such as a woman’s right to have an abortion before viability, we find convincing the AG’s argument that because the licensed notice is disseminated directly to patients whenever they enter a clinic, it is an effective means of informing women about publicly-funded pregnancy services,” she said.
As previously reported, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Reproductive FACT Act into law last 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.
Several pregnancy centers filed suit to challenge the law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, but none so far have been successful in obtaining relief.
In February, San Diego Judge John Houston became the fourth to deny the injunction, opining, “The state clearly has a legitimate interest in ensuring pregnant women are fully advised of their rights and treatment options when making reproductive health care decisions and the required disclosure is undeniably related to that interest.”
Friday’s decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Houston’s denial. The office of Attorney General Kamala Harris had defended the law in court.
“It’s bad enough if the government tells you what you can’t say, but a law that tells you what you must say—under threat of severe punishment—is even more unjust and dangerous,” said ADF senior counsel Matt Bowman following the release of the ruling. “In this case, political allies of abortionists are seeking to punish pro-life pregnancy centers, which offer real hope and help to women.”
“Forcing these centers to promote abortion and recite the government’s preferred views is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms,” he stated. “That’s why other courts around the country have halted these kinds of measures and why we will be discussing the possibility of appeal with our clients.”