Federal judges in Oakland and Sacramento will not strike down a California law forcing “crisis pregnancy centers” to offer information to clients about where they can obtain an abortion.
Crisis pregnancy centers typically offer free counseling, pregnancy tests, and ultrasounds to pregnant women, but oppose abortion. But the Reproductive FACT Act, AB 775, due to be implemented on January 1, requires crisis pregnancy centers to post a sign in the lobby that informs visitors that the state provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. AB775 was brought by Assemblyman David Chiu, (D-San Francisco) and signed by Governor Jerry Brown in October.
Conservative and religious organizations assert that the law violates freedom of speech and religion, as the it forces them to promote abortion.
However, on Monday, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller denied an injunction to block the law, claiming she was protecting women’s health, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Mueller stated, “There is a general public interest in ensuring the women of this state know they have access to publicly funded health care related to family planning, contraception, abortion and prenatal care and delivery.”
On Friday, blocking another injunction against the bill brought by the American Center for Law and Justice, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of Oakland said that the abortion notices offer “only factual and incontrovertibly true information about the range of pregnancy-related health services available,” and “do not include language endorsing or recommending such services.”
Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which has been fighting the law, stated, “This ruling should alarm everyone who believes in a robust First Amendment. The notion that the government can compel religious nonprofits to promote practices antithetical to their values is chilling.”
In New York, similar legislation was passed requiring crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion services, but the crisis pregnancy centers filed suit, eventually wining their case in appeals court. As Reuters reported, “The appeals court threw out a provision that makes centers state whether they provide abortions and other reproductive care and a requirement that the centers tell clients that New York City health officials recommend that pregnant women consult a licensed healthcare provider.”