June 26 (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday against a California law that requires anti-abortion pregnancy centers to inform women about publicly funded abortion and contraception options.
In a 5-4 decision, the high court said the centers are likely to succeed in their claim that the California law — enacted in 2015 to ensure the centers don’t mislead the women — violates the First Amendment.
California’s Reproductive Fact Act requires the anti-abortion, often religiously affiliated clinics to display written notices about abortion options.
The Supreme Court also said requiring the clinics to disclose they have no licensed medical providers — another provision of the California law — also likely violates the First Amendment.
Justice Clarence Thomas argued the state could inform low-income women of their options “without burdening a speaker with unwanted speech.”
“California has offered no justification that the notice plausibly furthers,” he wrote for the majority. “It targets speakers, not speech, and imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech. Taking all these circumstances together, we conclude that the unlicensed notice is unjustified and unduly burdensome.”
Justice Stephen Breyer said in dissent the law “does not, on its face, distinguish between facilities that favor pro-life and those that favor pro-choice points of view.”
“Using the First Amendment to strike down economic and social laws that legislatures long would have thought themselves free to enact will, for the American public, obscure, not clarify, the true value of protecting freedom of speech,” Breyer wrote.
Justices Thomas, Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch and Anthony Kennedy voted in the majority. Justices Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg voted in dissent.
Penny Nance, CEO of the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, said the ruling sends a message that Americans who oppose abortion rights “cannot be discriminated against.”
“To be clear, this case was not about abortion. Malicious abortion politics definitely were the motivation behind it, but the case centered on the inappropriate mandate of the state compelling pro-life clinics to promote abortion in violation of their consciences,” Nance said in a statement.
“The case was about forced speech.”
NARAL, an abortion rights non-profit, said it “won’t stop fighting” for women’s reproductive health and added the ruling will give “unlicensed fake women’s health centers” the ability to bring in people who “dress up as doctors and deliberately lie to women.”