Hawaii is considering legislation that would require all pregnancy centers to refer patients to clinics that provide abortions, — a move pro-life centers say will violate their religious beliefs and their free speech rights.
In a 22-3 vote, the state’s Democrat-controlled Senate approved SB 501, which would direct “all limited service pregnancy centers to disclose the availability of and enrollment information for reproductive health services.”
For the Rev. Derald Skinner, pastor at Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor, that would mean putting a sign advertising abortion in his church.
“They want to mandate all pro-life centers to put an abortion referral sign in our reception areas,” Mr. Skinner said in a video published to the church’s Vimeo account. “Now our particular pro-life center is in our church. So it’s very important to realize that they are dictating to us what we can and cannot say. Will they give me my sermon next and tell me what I can preach?”
A companion bill is expected to pass in the House, which is also controlled by Democrats.
California and Illinois have similar laws on the books.
In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the California law.
Thomas Glessner, an attorney who heads the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, said he is working with the Alliance Defending Freedom to bring the case before the Supreme Court. He said the legislation is an “egregious violation of religious freedom.”
“The Hawaii effort to suppress free speech is especially concerning because one of the state’s pro-life centers is housed in a church — which means the church itself would be forced to refer for abortions,” Mr. Glessner said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii submitted testimony in favor of the House bill. The abortion company said pro-life pregnancy centers offer “biased, misleading, and false” health care information.
“Anyone seeking health care should receive comprehensive, accurate, unbiased information in a confidential setting,” the Planned Parenthood affiliate said. “Reproductive health care is no different.”
The legislation would require pro-life pregnancy centers either to post a sign or distribute a flyer advertising state-funded abortions.
They must read: “Hawaii has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services including all FDA-approved methods of contraception, prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the appropriate Med-QUEST division eligibility office.”
The sign must be at least “eight and one-half inches by eleven inches, written in no less than twenty-two point type, and posted in a clear and conspicuous place within the center’s waiting area so that it may be easily read by individuals seeking services from the center.”
The printed or digital flyer must be “written or rendered in no less than 14-point type” and “distributed individually to each patient or client at the time of check-in for services.” It must be made available to individuals “who cannot or do not wish to receive the notice in a digital format.”
The notice must also include the contact information of relevant state agencies.
Pro-life pregnancy centers and churches that refuse to comply with the order would be fined $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for each subsequent one.
Mr. Skinner, the Hawaii pastor, said the legislation “is completely against our First Amendment right [to] freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”
“The state of Hawaii should not be involved in our pro-life centers, nor especially in the Christian church,” he said.