On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justices heard arguments from a case involving pregnancy centers contesting a California statute which requires them to advertise for abortion clinics.
By law, these centers – including those which are faith-based – are required to inform women that California offers subsidies for abortion as an alternative.
The statute is being argued by the centers as a violation of conscience and the First Amendment – it seems the Supreme Court agrees.
Per Daily Wire:
On Tuesday, the justices of the Supreme Court sounded as if they are ready to shred the California law that requires pregnancy centers to notify women that the state offers subsidies for abortion.
That law was adopted in California in 2015, and forced the pregnancy centers to post a prominent notice if they had “no licensed medical provider” available. If the centers were licensed, they were forced to notify clients that the state offers “free or low-cost” contraception, prenatal care and abortion.
Some of the Justices each made apparent the statute was overly burdensome to the clinics and “mandating speech” was “pretty unusual to force a private speaker to do that for you under the 1st Amendment.”
Per LA Times:
But during Tuesday’s argument, most of the justices took sharp issue with all or parts of the California law. They said it was unfairly targeted at the faith-based centers. Doctors and for-profit clinics were exempted from the law.
“If it has been gerrymandered, that’s a serious issue,” said Justice Elena Kagan. Agreeing, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the law “has a lot of crazy exceptions. … What you’re left with is a very strange pattern, and, gee, it turns out just about the only clinics that are covered by this are pro-life clinics.”
Others said it violated the 1st Amendment by requiring these private clinics put out the state’s message. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy described the required notice as “mandating speech” that “alters the content of the message.”
Justice Neil Gorsuch said “full information about their options” should be available to pregnant women, but questioned why the state was mandating the centers to include the messaging. According to the report, he said that if the state has “other means to provide messages… It’s pretty unusual to force a private speaker to do that for you under the 1st Amendment.”
Still others voiced concern over the advertising burden put on small, nonprofit centers. Michael P. Farris, a lawyer for the centers, said advertisements, including billboards, would have to include disclosures in large print and in 13 languages.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the state’s lawyer she found that troubling. “If you have to say that, those two sentences in 13 different languages, it can be very burdensome,” she said.
Another exchange with Justice Kennedy was enough for him to say the mandate was an “undue burden”:
“What would happen if an unlicensed center just had a billboard that said, ‘Choose Life.’ Would they have to make the disclosure?” Kennedy asked.
“Yes, your honor,” Farris replied.
“It would be 29 words, in the same size font as ‘Choose Life’?” Kennedy continued.
Yes, Farris said, “and in the number of languages required by that county.”
Kennedy said he had heard all he needed to hear. “It seems to me that means that this is an undue burden. And that should suffice to invalidate the statute,” he said.
Justice Stephen Breyer found sympathy with the California law and related it to a decision reached by the high court in 1992, where doctors who performed abortions in Pennsylvania were required to tell patients about adoption alternatives.
“If a pro-life state can tell a doctor you have to tell people about adoption, why can’t a pro-choice state tell a doctor, a facility, whatever it is, you have to tell people about abortion?” Breyer said.
Farris was ready with an answer. He said the Pennsylvania law applied to doctors who were about to perform an abortion, a medical procedure. “Informed consent is triggered by a doctor proposing to perform a particular medical intervention,” he said. By contrast, he said, the California disclosure law applies to centers that will only discuss pregnancy with clients.
By the hour’s end, it appeared the justices would vote to strike down all or at least most of the law’s mandatory disclosure provisions.
Tuesday’s case marked the third time in recent months that the justices weighed a conservative group’s claim that a liberal state law amounts to unconstitutional “compelled speech.”