Hawaii Pregnancy Centers Challenge Law Requiring Posting of Info About Govt Contraception, Abortion Programs

Photo Credit: Credit Aneta Blaszczyk

HONOLULU, Hawaii — A church that operates a pro-life pregnancy center and an organization that operates a chain of pregnancy centers have filed suit to challenge a new Hawaii law that they believe wrongfully forces them to provide advertising for government abortion and contraception coverage programs against their conscience, purpose and mission.

A Place for Women Pregnancy Care Center and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates is challenging S.B. 501, which requires all “limited service” pregnancy centers to post or distribute a notice that reads in part:

“Hawaii has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, including, but not limited to, all FDA-approved methods of contraception and pregnancy-related services for eligible women. To apply online for medical insurance coverage, that will cover the full range of family planning and prenatal services, go to [website].”

The notice must include the web address and phone number where women may obtain such assistance.

While the bill as passed does not specifically mention abortion, the organizations believe that the “pregnancy-related services” mentioned in the legislation include abortion and/or referrals to abortion providers since the original version of the bill used the word “abortion” in its place.

According to the Daily Signal, prior to the passage of the bill, Rep. Bob McDermott, R-Ewa Beach, also spoke out against the abortion-minded motivations of his colleagues.

“Ultimately, what was the whole point of this whole thing? Where did it come from? Why is it even before us?” he asked. “It’s before us because there’s Christian centers that offer alternatives to abortion.”

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“They don’t believe in abortion. So, a woman comes in there and they’re encouraging, they offer alternatives but they don’t do abortions. And that’s what this is about,” he lamented.

The pregnancy centers believe, therefore, that the law wrongfully “requires ‘limited service pregnancy centers’ to provide referrals for abortion and/or arrange for referrals for abortion by requiring such centers to provide contact information for the applicable state social service resource to all clients so that they may procure an abortion.”

A Place for Women Pregnancy Care Center and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates state that such a requirement violates their faith and is tantamount to compelled speech—that is, making a person say something against their will. It also defeats the purpose of their existence.

“Thus, Calvary Chapel and NIFLA’s other member centers are subjected by the state to a compelled speech requirement from which all other facilities offering an array of similar health services—but additionally abortion and contraception, to which Calvary Chapel and NIFLA’s other member centers object to providing on religious and moral grounds—are exempted,” the complaint reads.

The groups are seeking an injunction against the statute and a declaration that the law is unconstitutional both on its face and as applied to the Christian pregnancy centers.

“Freedom of speech also means the freedom to not express views that would violate one’s conscience,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Legal Counsel Elissa Graves, who is representing the centers in court, said in a statement on Thursday. “Yet, under this law, Hawaii is forcing pro-life centers and physicians to provide free advertising for the abortion industry against their conscience. Because of the First Amendment’s protections, courts have repeatedly rejected these types of laws as unconstitutional.”

As previously reported, several pregnancy centers in California are currently battling a similar bill that became law in 2015.

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