California and the Constitution
The Supreme Court takes a challenge to the First Amendment
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.