Jus­tices to hear chal­lenge to preg­nancy cen­ter dis­clo­sure law

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD - By David G. Sav­age david.sav­age@la­times.com

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Mon­day to hear an an­tiabor­tion group’s chal­lenge to a Cal­i­for­nia law that re­quires “cri­sis preg­nancy cen­ters” to no­tify pa­tients that the state of­fers sub­si­dies for con­tra­cep­tion and abor­tion.

The chal­lengers say the dis­clo­sure law vi­o­lates the First Amend­ment be­cause it forces the faith-based preg­nancy cen­ters to send a mes­sage that con­flicts with their aim of en­cour­ag­ing child­birth, not abor­tion.

The case is one of three rais­ing First Amend­ment con­cerns that the court an­nounced it will hear af­ter the first of the year.

An­other case — Min­nesota Vot­ers Al­liance v. Man­sky — in­volves a Min­nesota law that bans wear­ing po­lit­i­cal mes­sages at polling places. The third — Loz­man v. City of Riviera Beach — stems from the ar­rest of a man who spoke out against “cor­rup­tion” at a Florida city coun­cil meet­ing.

The Cal­i­for­nia case prom­ises to be a high­pro­file con­flict that raises im­por­tant free speech is­sues about when a state’s in­tent to reg­u­late the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion vi­o­lates con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tions.

Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers passed the dis­clo­sure law two years ago af­ter con­clud­ing that as many as 200 preg­nancy cen­ters some­times mis­led or con­fused women into be­liev­ing they pro­vided the full range of med­i­cal care, in­clud­ing abor­tions. The law says these cen­ters must dis­close whether they have a med­i­cal li­cense and have med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als avail­able.

They must also post a no­tice in the wait­ing room that says the state of Cal­i­for­nia makes avail­able free or low-cost pre­na­tal care, con­tra­cep­tion or abor­tion to el­i­gi­ble women.

The National In­sti­tute of Fam­ily and Life Ad­vo­cates, which says it rep­re­sents 110 cen­ters, sued to block the law, call­ing it “com­pelled speech” that vi­o­lates the First Amend­ment.

Two other clin­ics sued as well, but the U.S. 9th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals up­held the law last year. In a 3-0 rul­ing, it said the state had broad power to reg­u­late med­i­cal providers to pro­tect pa­tients. And it said the dis­clo­sures did not vi­o­late the First Amend­ment be­cause they stated facts and did not “en­cour­age” women to seek an abor­tion.

The jus­tices are to hear ar­gu­ments in NIFLA v. Be­cerra early next year and is­sue a rul­ing by late June.

It will be the sec­ond ma­jor case this term which arises from a con­ser­va­tive, free-speech chal­lenge to a lib­eral state law.

On Dec. 5, the jus­tices will hear the case of the Colorado baker who re­fused to make a wed­ding cake for a same-sex mar­riage and was charged with vi­o­lat­ing the state’s civil rights law.

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