HONOLULU, Hawaii — A federal judge appointed to the bench by then-President Barack Obama has struck down a law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers in Hawaii to post information about government contraception and abortion programs, simply pointing to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated a similar statute.
“In light of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Nat’l Inst. of Family & Life Advocates v. Becerra, and the parties’ stipulation for entry of permanent injunction and final judgment in favor of plaintiffs, it is hereby ordered … that Hawaii revised statutes § 321-561(b)-(c) [are] declared to be unconstitutional under the United States Constitution as-applied to plaintiffs with respect to plaintiffs’ First Amendment free speech claim,” wrote U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in a short three-page decision on Thursday.
As previously reported, A Place for Women Pregnancy Care Center and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates filed suit in July to challenge S.B. 501, a bill that required all “limited service” pregnancy centers to post or distribute a notice that read 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].”
Pregnancy centers were required to include the web address and phone number where women may obtain such assistance.
While the bill, which was signed into law by Gov. David Ige, did not specifically mention abortion, the organizations believed that the “pregnancy-related services” mentioned in the legislation included abortion and/or referrals to abortion providers since the original version of the bill used the word “abortion” in its place.
A Place for Women Pregnancy Care Center, operated by a local church, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates contended in court 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, they said.
“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 legal complaint read.
The groups sought 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. According to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represented the organizations in court, Attorney General Doug Chin agreed that the law couldn’t stand in light of the Supreme Court’s NIFLA v. Becerra ruling.
As previously reported, the Supreme Court had ruled in the California Reproductive FACT Act case, “This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression. … Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief.”
“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,” remarked NIFLA President Thomas Glessner in a statement on Friday. “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.”