Supreme Court says crisis pregnancy centers do not have to provide women abortion information
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court said Tuesday, June 26, that pregnancy centers established to convince women to continue their pregnancies do not have to tell their clients about the availability of state-offered services, including abortion.
The court's conservatives said a California law likely violates the First Amendment. It required what are called crisis pregnancy centers - they promise prenatal care and help when the child is born - to post notices or tell clients about the state's service.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the 5 to 4 decision.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent for the court's liberals, and read parts of it from the bench.
The California legislature said some centers trick women into thinking they provide contraceptive services, including abortion, and sometimes delay a woman until it is too late to schedule an abortion.
But the centers said the law violates their constitutional rights by forcing them to deliver a message that is antithetical to their mission of encouraging women to carry on their pregnancies rather than end them.
The California law at issue requires centers that offer some medical services, such as ultrasound exams, meet specific requirements and be licensed. They also must display or relay to a woman the state's message:
"California 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 county social services office."
A clinic that does not offer medical services is required to post a sign include in advertisements that it is "not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services."
California said its messages take no position on abortion. It makes sense to require the centers to tell patients of the state's offered services because that it is when women are most in need of them, the state contends.
In their brief to the Supreme Court, the centers said that "forcing a pro-life group to advertise for abortion has to be unconstitutional."
They said the law violates two "cardinal First Amendment principles: it targets disfavored speakers and compels them to deliver the state's message. And it does so in the context of speech on a subject where there is profound moral and ideological disagreement."
The Trump administration had taken the position that the sign provision for the licensed centers was unconstitutional. But it said the restrictions on the unlicensed centers should be upheld.
While similar notification laws in Baltimore and other jurisdictions have been struck down, a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld California's act.
The case is National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra.Story by Robert Barnes. Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987. He joined The Post to cover Maryland politics, and he has served in various editing positions, including metropolitan editor and national political editor. He has covered the Supreme Court since November 2006.