- - Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Four days before Christmas, three Illinois pro-life pregnancy resource centers won a major victory against a coercive law that requires them to refer for abortions. An Illinois state judge ruled that these pro-life agencies do not have to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs or their First Amendment rights, and that medical licenses for doctors are not at risk when standing on pro-life principles.

The judge’s decision is in line with rulings in New York, Texas, Maryland and elsewhere. However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of another overreaching law in California that mandates pregnancy resource centers post information advising patients on how to obtain a state-funded abortion. This decision is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), a national network of more than 1,350 pro-life pregnancy centers.

Three-thousand pregnancy resource centers and medical centers exist in America. They empower a woman’s right to choose life by providing material provisions, housing and adoption information, education on abortion alternatives, ongoing counseling, and medical services such as ultrasounds, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatments, and more.

These charitable, faith-based, agencies operate with small budgets and are mostly staffed by unpaid volunteers who want to help women who are contemplating abortion. Unlike Planned Parenthood, they provide services free of charge on budgets almost entirely funded through private donors.

Taxpayers benefit from these services. According to a 2010 report issued by the nation’s three largest pregnancy resource center umbrella groups — NIFLA, Heartbeat International and Care Net — services provided saved taxpayers more than $100 million in that year alone.

With last week’s Women’s March, and the 44th annual March for Life this Friday, It is hard to understand why governments are targeting groups specifically designed to empower vulnerable women. Yet that’s exactly what Planned Parenthood’s government allies desire. In violation of First Amendment rights to free speech and religious practice (as well as the federal Weldon Amendment that prevents federally funded agencies from discriminating against those who oppose abortion), they are doing the bidding of America’s abortion industry.

Pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics help women and their children move forward with their lives. They affirm the needs of these mothers while providing a kind voice and a helping hand during some of life’s most uncertain moments.

Pregnancy resource center employees and volunteers provide all of their services for free, meaning that they are not motivated by financial profit. Rather, their motivation is their strong commitment to helping save and improve lives. This contrasts sharply with the abortion industry’s shameless manipulation of women. This is why Congress and President Trump have vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, and why we seek to protect life-affirming centers by making the Weldon Amendment permanent law and putting a pro-life Supreme Court justice on the bench.

The work of pro-life pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics are the best example of the generous American spirit that helps the vulnerable at home and internationally. Now is a time for all who believe in the inherent dignity and God-given value of every human life to join arms and support the lifesaving work of these centers as they care for women and their unborn babies.

Diane Black, a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee, is a registered nurse and a member of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. Thomas Glessner is the founder and president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates.

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