Justices to hear challenge to pregnancy center disclosure law
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.