Cal­i­for­nia and the Con­sti­tu­tion

The Supreme Court takes a chal­lenge to the First Amend­ment

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

There’s a lot about the law and the Con­sti­tu­tion that Cal­i­for­nia does not un­der­stand, par­tic­u­larly the First Amend­ment. The U.S. Supreme Court, per­haps will­ing to of­fer the needed tu­to­rial in the law, has agreed to hear a le­gal chal­lenge to a Cal­i­for­nia law re­quir­ing pri­vate pro-life preg­nancy coun­sel­ing cen­ters to tell their clients that the state will pro­vide an abortion in­stead.

A state Su­pe­rior Court jus­tice, Glo­ria Trask, has en­joined en­force­ment of the law or­der­ing cri­sis preg­nancy cen­ters to post signs and oth­er­wise in­form preg­nant women who come to them that there are al­ter­na­tives to giv­ing birth, such as tax­payer-funded abor­tions. A cri­sis cen­ter that doesn’t do that is sub­ject to a $500 fine for the first vi­o­la­tion, and $1,000 for sub­se­quent vi­o­la­tions.

Jus­tice Trask says the law con­tra­venes “free­dom of mind” pro­vi­sions of Cal­i­for­nia’s Dec­la­ra­tion of Rights in­cluded in its 1849 state Con­sti­tu­tion. “Com­pelled speech of a po­lit­i­cal or cul­tural na­ture,” she wrote, “is not the tool of a free gov­ern­ment.” Com­pelled speech “must be sub­ject to rea­son­able lim­i­ta­tion. This statute com­pels the clinic to speak words with which it pro­foundly dis­agrees, when the state has nu­mer­ous al­ter­na­tive meth­ods of pub­lish­ing its mes­sage. In this case, how­ever vir­tu­ous the state’s ends, they do not jus­tify its means.”

Jus­tice Trask ruled shortly af­ter the 9th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals, which is of­ten over­ruled by the Supreme Court for its fan­ci­ful no­tions of the law, turned away plain­tiffs’ pleas that the new law vi­o­lates their re­li­gious be­liefs as well as their freespeech rights en­shrined in the First Amend­ment. Other fed­eral courts have struck down sim­i­lar laws in­fring­ing the rights of cri­sis-preg­nancy cen­ters in Mary­land, New York and Texas.

Un­like Planned Par­ent­hood, the na­tion’s rich­est and most pro­lific provider of abor­tions, non­profit preg­nancy-re­source cen­ters pro­vide a woman emo­tional sup­port and con­fi­den­tial coun­sel­ing if she wants to carry her child to term. Of­ten op­er­at­ing on shoe­string bud­gets, such cen­ters pro­vide fi­nan­cial and other as­sis­tance in kind, in­clud­ing ma­ter­nity and baby cloth­ing; hous­ing, le­gal, med­i­cal and so­cial-ser­vice re­fer­rals, and in­for­ma­tion on adop­tion.

Nev­er­the­less, the abortion lobby ac­cuses the cen­ters of us­ing “de­cep­tive” ad­ver­tis­ing prac­tices, in­tended to con­fuse women with un­planned preg­nan­cies into think­ing they’re re­ceiv­ing “neu­tral and ob­jec­tive” coun­sel­ing.

Abor­tion­ists have tra­di­tion­ally ar­gued, as in the words of Bill Clin­ton, the for­mer pres­i­dent, that they only want to make abortion “safe, le­gal and rare.” But not, ap­par­ently, ac­tu­ally rare. Rad­i­cal fem­i­nists and the abortion lobby re­sist every mod­est at­tempt to make abor­tions rare, such as a 24-hour wait­ing pe­riod to en­able a preg­nant woman to think again about an abortion, or to en­able her to see an ul­tra­sound image of an un­born child that il­lus­trates that the child she is car­ry­ing is not merely a “blob of cells.”

No one would ex­pect the courts to force the Amer­i­can Lung As­so­ci­a­tion to ad­vo­cate smok­ing to pro­tect the to­bacco com­pa­nies from fi­nan­cial ruin, and nei­ther should cri­sis-preg­nancy cen­ters be com­pelled un­der penalty of fi­nan­cial ruin to speak words with which they pro­foundly dis­agree.

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