Law & Court News

Justices rule against California law targeting anti-abortion pregnancy centers

Anti-abortion advocates demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court on June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (USA Today) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday (June 26) dealt a major blow to a California law requiring anti-abortion pregnancy centers to inform women about publicly funded abortion and contraception services.

The 5-4 ruling written by Justice Clarence Thomas, with the court’s conservatives in the majority, was aimed at a liberal state government seeking to notify pregnant women of their rights to an abortion. But it could have unintended consequences. Laws in more conservative states requiring women seeking abortions to view ultrasounds or learn about the growth of their fetus now could be at risk.


RELATED: Supreme Court skeptical of California law requiring information about abortion


California’s law forces licensed pregnancy centers to post notices about free or low-cost state programs that include abortion services. It also requires unlicensed centers to inform clients that they are not medical facilities. Challengers called it a form of compelled speech.

The justices were divided over the requirements during oral argument in March. The court’s conservatives, including California’s Anthony Kennedy, complained that the law targets only clinics that counsel women to complete their pregnancies. But liberal justices compared it to laws, upheld by the high court, that require doctors performing abortions to advise women about alternatives.


RELATED: A landmark religious freedom case especially threatens low-income women and those of color


The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which operates or is associated with about 130 California pregnancy centers, argued such “informed consent” laws are warranted on the verge of a medical procedure, but the same is not true for centers counseling women to continue pregnancy.

The state contends that many pregnancy centers deceive and misinform clients by posing as medical clinics and running ads intended to attract women in search of traditional abortion and contraception services. It says more than half of its 700,000 pregnancies each year are unintended, and women need to know their options.


RELATED: Can the government force pregnancy centers to speak a message they disagree with?


While the Supreme Court made abortion legal nationwide in 1973 and has struck down state restrictions that block access for women, it has defended free speech rights in a number of recent cases:

Cities such as New York, San Francisco and Baltimore were first to enact laws imposing requirements on pregnancy centers. The facilities fought back in court — successfully in most cases — by arguing that the cities were discriminating based on their viewpoints.

A coalition of municipal groups argued that a ruling against California could put other required postings on shaky legal ground, such as those providing first aid instructions or requiring workers to wash their hands.

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Richard Wolf

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  • It’s telling that a policy of keeping women ignorant of their options was defended as a “victory” for religious groups.

  • Another step backward for women’s rights and for our nation, thanks to deluded religious sheeple.

    STOP RELIGION NOW!

  • Good ruling. A pro-life group argued, convincingly, I think, that “informed consent” laws — such as required by California — are warranted on the verge of a medical procedure, but the same is not true for centers counseling women to continue pregnancy (per this news report).

  • The only thing telling is that anyone vaguely familiar with the First Amendment could see this decision in the Peoples Republic of California coming a mile away.

  • And after the babies are born, the mothers are left to their own devices, while the religious groups cut benefits.

  • WHAM! BLAM! Nasty and typically Christian BobbyJoJack Arnzen Carioca concludes with an insulting slap at California, which is actually one of the most successful and innovative bastions of enterprise in our nation.

    Little Bobby, we’re taking your guns away.

  • It’s disturbing what small regard contemporary liberals have for First Amendment rights.

  • You haven’t actually read the decision, have you?

    This had literally nothing to do with regulation.

    It had to with dragooning private entities that did NOT provide medical and health services into transmitting what the left wing of the California legislature wanted them to transmit.

  • Sure, if you’d like to pretend that pregnancy counseling centers aren’t providing a health service, so they have no obligation to be truthful to patients making medical decisions. Meanwhile, back in reality… Christians are overjoyed that they can keep lying.

  • No, the Supreme Court said that the centers did not fall under the State of California’s authority to regulate health care.

    The reason why is because they are not healthcare, anymore than a church whose minister advises parishioners not to get abortions is a healthcare provider.

    I’m overjoyed that whacks in California and people who agree with them have had their imagined authority to remake the world and control free speech restricted.

  • Indeed. This SCOTUS will readily step up for freedom of speech where they are often hesitant to do the same for religious freedom, preferring to leave it for their successors to take on if at all possible.

  • Liberals have never had regard for the First Amendment.

    They used to, however, pretend they did.

  • I believe that’s her sixth or seventh account.

    She has a couple of other one as well under other names.

  • So naturally a little reciprocity is needed. Protestors outside of these phony forced birth clinics.

  • Well nobody ever claimed that religious groups were entitled to make honest claims about reality around them. What you typically call religious freedom is generally more known as “Christian privilege”. The unnatural need for Christians to believe they are above the law when it comes to the civil treatment of others

  • Republicans are already demanding cuts to SNAP, Medicare and other benefits following the $1.5T giveaway to the upper wealthy. Trump supporters who work for a living shot their own interests in the foot.

  • Says ‘Bob” Jose Arzen Carioca, now on at least his eleventh account and with numerous names.

    “Bob” claims to block me and other posters, but as his post now shows, his own ego defeats him yet again and he can’t actually do it.

  • If any woman today is ignorant of the option of abortion they have been living in a cave.

  • Nonsense from Bob and Otto as usual. Bob has devoted his career to fighting the First Amendment, and was kicked out of DC for his misdemeanors during his efforts.

  • And what an evil and immoral “game plan” you have. Fortunately the ROTW is leading and going in a different direction. It will take years for America to catch up, but at least the evangelicals are being squeezed and Shawnie is starting to squirm.

    Life’s tough for Shawnie, being an aging-out lecherous old cougar -her husband likely doesn’t know about that yet.

  • It’s actually entirely possible, and common, for women in a specific area to not be aware of locally and otherwise available options, especially given the frantic but ultimately losing efforts of whacko anti-abortion evangelicals.

  • Great news. Let women use their own intelligence to search for life affirming options.

    They don’t need to be molly coddled like liberals want them to be.

    The left don’t think very much of women’s intelligence. They think that unless EVERY SINGLE entity in the chain of health care presents abortion then some women will be just too stupid to understand the full spectrum of LEGAL options (distinguishing between moral, life affirming options).

  • Yes, women are just too stupid to know their full options. Most women have never heard of abortion, and so it’s only right for the State to force every life-affirming group to tell tell women that there are much more dangerous options (like abortion) to consider.

    The left’s mission is to protect women from their own stupidity and ignorance.

  • Everyone else in society has an obligation to inform women and girls of their rights and options. We have never been able to rely on church people to do that.

  • WHOAH … In California alone, “half of … 700,000 pregnancies each year are unintended”!

    Here, then, is the Oxymoron Phrase of the Week, which is so popular and well understood in California year after year:

    “Unintended Pregnancies from Intended Sex”.

    I’m so ashamed right now to be a part of this, this, this so-called human race in Californi(c)a(te).

    But I tell you what, though. I thank God & Jesus for always causing sex to impregnate!

  • Wait. What? “Babies are born” in California even though “half of … 700,000 pregnancies each year are unintended”?

    “And after [that] the mothers are left to their own devices”?

    Somebody’s twisting truth & facts here.

  • You call “half of … 700,000 pregnancies each year [in California being] unintended” – a “step [for]ward for women’s rights and for our nation”?

  • And you call “half of … 700,000 pregnancies each year [in California being] unintended” – “a ‘victory’ for [atheists & skeptics] groups”?

  • Given that the decision describes the centers as serving low income women and notes that notices had to be posted in 13 different languages, a possibility for a number of these women.

  • Not exactly – at least as far as I read. There was a differentiation between licensed and unlicensed centers. The kicker for the licensed centers was that an exemption was legislated for government run centers that actually could provide immediate access to abortions. Eliminating that exemption appears then to pave the way for such a requirement. And that also makes sense because of the multi language posting that was required.

  • “A coalition of municipal groups argued that a ruling against California could put other required postings on shaky legal ground, such as those providing first aid instructions or requiring workers to wash their hands.”

    That’s not just taking logic to its extremes, it’s being deliberately nonsensical. Who has a religious, philosophical, or moral objection to providing first aid or washing their hands?

  • You mean, while the religious (both Conservative and Liberal) donate more of their time and money to charities (both religious and secular) than anyone else in the country, right?

  • Sadly, lying to the vulnerable and gullible has always been something which organized religion does very well. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that religious lies about women’s health by people pretending to some degree of expertise is ok.

  • How sad that women are being told that it is perfectly all right under the law to be deceived, to have information withheld that identifies legal rights and options. There is something really awry when civil “religious freedom” becomes a civil right to deceive about civil rights and freedoms. The state is not allowed to require licensed counseling facilities to tell the truth.

    “Religious freedom” now means the right to deceive.

  • How wonderful it is that the Supreme Court has affirmed that no one can be compelled to utter speech or deliver messages with which she or he disagrees.

    The state is not allowed to require anyone to utter speech because an executive, legislature, or poobah thinks it best, that their “truth” is the only truth.

    It was free speech, not religious freedom, on which this decision rested.

  • There should be a requirement that those who refuse to talk about abortion must display a sign that says they will exercise their religious freedom to lie and deceive women about what their options are. Because that is what they are doing. It is deception. It is manipulation. It is denying a woman the human right to make her own choice by deceiving her.

    I am not kidding about the need for daily pickets at these so-called crisis pregnancy counseling centers that deceive women.

  • Are they still allowed to tell people that the earth is 6,000 years old and that snakes and donkeys talk?

  • They may be aware of it in the abstract but as how to find out? I live in a small town in the NC mountains. I have no idea where a woman would get an abortion. Charlotte? Raleigh? And yet our local CPC has a huge billboard and spreads all manner of misinformation.

  • As far as I can tell..Kennedy is a moderate….most liberals I know are not terrified of him at all.

    “Who has a religious, philosophical, or moral objection to providing first aid or washing their hands?”

    Not to get too pedantic but I reckon the Jains might..some sects oppose even killing microbes. Christian Scientists might oppose first aid…prayer is all that is needed.

  • ” I thank God & Jesus for always causing sex to impregnate!”

    So they spend their time lurking in bedrooms?

  • There should be a requirement that everyone who makes proposals like that, and every legislator who votes for legislation like that nixed by the Supreme Court, should be required to take a course in constitutional law with an emphasis on the Bill of Rights, followed by writing 1,000 times “I shall keep my mitts to myself”.

  • If you really believed “I shall keep my mitts to myself” then you would believe that women should receive all information of legal options so that they, too, could keep their own mitts to themselves.

    What you want to do is to have the ability to control and manipulate by limiting the information given to women. If you really want to keep your mitts to yourself, then stop trying to control/manipulate others – make it possible for them to keep their mitts to themselves.

    It is a two way street, Bob.

  • You can’t expect Christians like Bob to be anything other than annoying, lying hypocrites, who block anyone who disagrees with them.

  • Well, they are still allowed to tell people that a virgin gave birth, so “flat earth” business must be booming right now.

  • If “women should receive all information of legal options”, keep contributing to Planned Parenthood.

    Dragooning unwilling citizens into carrying forth the message YOU think they should receive is simple fascism.

    Your “stop trying to control/manipulate others” is simply hilarious given your position that controlling people who disagree with a message into distributing for you for free is a good move, a fair move, a wise move.

    From the opinion:

    “California has not demonstrated any justification for the unlicensed notice that is more than ‘purely hypothetical.’ The only justification put forward by the state legislature was ensuring that pregnant women know when they are receiving medical care from licensed professionals, but California denied that the justification for the law was that women did not know what kind of facility they are entering when they go to a crisis pregnancy center. Even if the State had presented a nonhypothetical justification, the FACT Act unduly burdens protected speech. It imposes a government-scripted, speaker-based disclosure requirement that is wholly disconnected from the State’s informational interest. It requires covered facilities to post California’s precise notice, no matter what the facilities say on site or in their advertisements. And it covers a curiously narrow subset of speakers: those that primarily provide pregnancy-related services, but not those that provide, e.g., nonprescription birth control. Such speaker-based laws run the risk that ‘the State has left unburdened those speakers whose messages are in accord with its own views.’”

    As the Court noted earlier in its opinion, California could also inform the women about its services “without burdening a speaker with unwanted speech,” Riley, supra, at 800, most obviously through a public-information campaign. “

    This opinion should be a heads-up for crypto-Nazis about Free Speech.

  • And you know what God wants, do you? Does his voice in your head tell you what to do?

  • “Dragooning unwilling citizens into carrying forth the message YOU think they should receive is simple fascism.”

    Tell that to abortion clinics in Missouri, who are currently required to do exactly that, by carrying forth the religious view that life begins at conception and requiring a 3-day waiting period.

  • I do think the government has an interest in assuring that women have all the information about the options available to them under the law. A deliberate attempt to deny that information should be of concern to government, since that is an attempt to manipulate others by denying them information.

    If someone is not willing to be honest then they should not be allowed to present themselves as if they were going to give women all the information. To any extent that government regulates these organizations, government should not permit an organization that intends to deceive women to be licensed.

  • OH, how I wish Bob would block me. Then he wouldn’t even know when I commented. I think he disrupts so much that people aren’t going to bother.

    I think RNS should have a limit on how many comments any one person can make so it is not possible for any one or a few to dominate.

  • Then the government should undertake a public information campaign using signs on public transportation, radio, television, and newspaper ads.

    The Supreme Court rejected the argument in your last paragraph out of hand.

    Disagreeing with you and like-minded individuals is NOT “not willing to be honest”.

    There are other opinions in the world besides yours, Planned Parenthood’s, the Peoples Republic of California, and NOW.

  • Do not murder pregnant people, That they may live to breed another day, If they so desire. – Me

  • Yes, Kennedy is a Moderate, which is why Liberals are terrified — because whoever replaces him won’t be.

    And no, so far as I know neither Jainism nor Christian Science have religious objections to first aid, whatever they may believe about more extensive medical care.

  • All Americans should be terrified of Trump’s inability to choose a qualified candidate.

    I never said they HAD objections…I was simply positing that based on their stated believes they COULD raise such objections.

  • That’s just my handle….not sure why that’s hard to understand. Can I assume you are a molecule of Hydrogen and Polonium by your name? lo.

  • Gorsuch (definitely a variety of Originalist) received the American Bar Association’s highest rating. However much it must have stuck in their craw, they had to admit he’s well qualified for his position on any non-ideological grounds.

  • I’ve noticed the left is getting more and more profane, not able to use their intellect but instead letting their limbic system drive their bus!!

    Why?

    Why is there such unpeace in them?

    Why do they let their emotions drive all their actions?

    Why do they have so much interior complaint spilling out soiling dialog and their relations?

  • The proof of God & Jesus being that sex impregnates, would’ve been a nice point of departure for our abortion debate. But no, you blow it. So kindly avoid talking to me from now on. As I you.

    That’s my meaning of, You lost me at “bald”.

  • Because some profanities are useful in underlining a point. If you dont like it..dont use them.

  • It’s a sign that someone has lost their refinement and interior peace, and that their intellect is no longer sufficient or up to the task of actual dialog.

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