US judge brings permanent end to law requiring pro-life groups to promote abortion

A federal judge has banned the enforcement of California’s Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency) Act, which required pro-life pregnancy centres to distribute information about abortion.

The Act came into force in October 2015, but a Supreme Court decision on 26 June 2018 found that it violates freedom of speech.

Michael Farris from the religious liberty organisation Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) said: “The Government has no business forcing anyone to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion”.

Compelled speech

Currently there are over 200 pro-life pregnancy centres in California, many of which have a faith-based ethos, and have been bound by the FACT Act.

Failure to comply with the law could have resulted in fines of up to $1,000.

A coalition of pro-life organisations, led by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, challenged the law in the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.

They argued that it violated free speech protections in the US Constitution’s First Amendment, because it forced citizens to express a message with which they disagree.

‘Constitutional concern’

The State of California claimed that it had legitimate reasons for ensuring that all citizens were well informed about a variety of ‘reproductive health’ options and claimed that many pro-life centres concealed their stance.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote to the court saying that enforcing such laws was a “serious constitutional concern”.

The US Supreme Court ruled against the pro-abortion law in June, and last Friday a federal court order permanently ended enforcement of the law.

Free speech

In 2015, after the Reproductive FACT Act was passed, a number of pro-life pregnancy centres took legal action.

The Pacific Justice Institute, a religious advocacy group, complained: “It’s like telling the Alcoholics Anonymous group that they have to have a large sign saying where people can get alcohol and booze for free”.

ADF’s Michael Farris concluded: “The outcome of this case affirms the freedom that all Americans have to speak – or not to speak – in accordance with their conscience”.

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