The mission of the pro-life movement has always been to “love them both” — protecting the innate human dignity of both mother and child. There is no better example of carrying out this mission than pro-life pregnancy care centers, the kind involved in the Supreme Court case NIFLA v. Becerra. In that case the right of pregnancy care centers to continue providing compassionate, life-affirming care to expectant mothers and their babies was just upheld.
Pro-life pregnancy care centers like the ones represented by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates exist in huge numbers across the entire United States, in fact, they outnumber abortion clinics 3:1. Primarily these centers are run by volunteers and offer over $100 million in free services a year.
Many are medically licensed facilities that offer health services such as sonograms, pregnancy testing, and prenatal vitamins. Others offer pregnancy counseling and non-medical support services. However, what is perhaps most distinctive about these centers is their invaluable support system that starts with pregnancy and lasts through parenthood — helping with child care, clothing, diapers and even career counseling.
The sole focus of pro-life pregnancy centers is the well-being of mother and child. Unlike many abortion clinics, including our nation’s largest abortion provider Planned Parenthood, these centers do not financially benefit from women terminating their pregnancy. They are not commercial enterprises, but rather places of refuge, charity, and hope. Their goal is to ensure every woman that walks through the door feels confident that she is not alone, and empowered in her decision to choose life.
At issue in NIFLA v. Becerra was whether pro-life pregnancy centers should be compelled to directly undermine that life-saving goal by promoting or advertising abortion.
Compelling these life-affirming pregnancy centers to promote abortion not only violates the first amendment right to free speech, it undercuts their very reason for existence. Since 2016 pregnancy care centers have been forced to promote abortion with explicitly visible signage and they even are obliged to pay for those signs. Some must be posted in 13 different languages and include the phone numbers of local abortion providers.
Unlicensed pregnancy centers must include large disclosures about their non-medical status in all advertisements. In some cases, the message is so long that there is little to no space left in the ad for the center’s pro-life message. Tellingly, this mandated speech is not directed toward abortion providers, hospitals, or any federal health centers — only pro-life pregnancy care centers.
The decision in NIFLA v. Becerra was pivotal not just for pro-life pregnancy care centers but for everyone who benefits from charitable activity in the United States. Thankfully, the Supreme Court found that the government cannot compel and regulate charities to advertise and speak in a way that undermines their own mission. The decision in favor of pregnancy care centers recognizes our First Amendment rights, and the right of all organizations, including pro-life pregnancy care centers, to freely carry out their mission without undermining it. We are grateful that these centers and the critical services they provide to mothers and babies are allowed to keep their doors, and their hearts, open.
• Jeanne Mancini is president of the March for Life.