- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2017

Pro-life pregnancy centers are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a California law requiring clinics to refer patients for state-funded abortions.

Attorneys representing two faith-based pregnancy centers and a national umbrella group for pro-life clinics filed a petition Monday challenging the constitutionality of California’s Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act.

David Cortman, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed the petition, said the law is a clear violation of the First Amendment.

“It’s unthinkable for the government to force anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry,” Mr. Cortman said in a statement. “This is especially true of pregnancy care centers, which exist to care for women who want to have their babies. The state shouldn’t have the power to punish anyone for being pro-life.”

The Reproductive FACT Act was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015. It requires licensed medical centers in California to display a sign informing patients how they can obtain taxpayer-funded abortions.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the law in a decision in October. But federal courts in Maryland, New York and Texas have struck down similar laws.

Illinois also has an abortion referral law on the books, and the Hawaii Senate approved similar legislation earlier this month. The Hawaii bill would require Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor to display a sign advertising abortions because the church houses a pregnancy center.

The California law was supported by Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and other abortion advocates. They argue patients have a right to know about all available medical services.

Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said pro-life pregnancy centers offer valuable health care services to vulnerable patients. He said the government should be protecting their rights, not violating them.

“Pregnant women need a place where they can find help and hope — for themselves and for their babies,” said Mr. Theriot. “Pregnancy care centers accomplish that by offering compassionate care to women who feel helpless and alone. So why is the government doing the abortion industry’s dirty work instead of protecting freedom for pregnancy care centers, which offer real choices to women faced with life-and-death decisions?”

The National Institutes of Family and Life Advocates, an umbrella group for pro-life pregnancy centers nationwide, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Institutes President Tom Glessner said California’s law is a “shocking violation of the U.S. Constitution, previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings and simple common sense.”

He said pro-life pregnancy centers are “almost entirely privately funded” and provide competition to Planned Parenthood, which receives more than $500 million in annual taxpayer funding.

“We are the pro-life alternative to Planned Parenthood,” Mr. Glessner said in a statement. “Perhaps this is why America’s abortion giant has hypocritically supported the ‘California FACT Act’ even as it has claimed a right to taxpayer funding.”

Mr. Cortman said the “abortion industry already makes millions on abortion and from taxpayer funding; we are asking the Supreme Court to ensure that they won’t be allowed to force unwilling people to promote their business.”

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