Supreme Court to Decide Fate of California's Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers
On March 20, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in NIFLA v. Becerra to decide whether the free speech protections of the First Amendment will keep open the doors of pro-life pregnancy centers in California, despite the efforts of state officials and the abortion industry to close them.
The law at issue is California’s Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency Act. The FACT Act, as it is known, was passed by lawmakers claiming that low-income women who face unplanned pregnancies in the state often don’t know that the state offers low-cost or free abortion and so are misled or deceived by pro-life pregnancy centers into giving birth to their children.
There are so many problems with the FACT Act that it is hard to know where to start. Two observations might help put the case in perspective.
First, California has shown no real evidence of deception on the part of pregnancy centers. The best it can come up with is, not surprisingly, a report issued by an abortion industry advocacy group. That report was based entirely on the accounts of paid operatives who lied to clinic staff. It does not contain a single complaint from a legitimate visitor to any of the clinics. Indeed, the state has even failed to produce a single victim of the alleged deception in their court filings.
Second, thousands of women facing unexpected pregnancies want the kind of help pregnancy centers offer. An amicus brief filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of 13 women beneficiaries of pro-life pregnancy centers across the United States highlights this. Many of the amici women suffered abuse, poverty, or addictions and contacted centers because they wanted information, needed resources, or sought counsel for how to face an unexpected pregnancy. None of the women felt pressured or deceived; all of them spoke with gratitude about the centers’ presence in their lives.
Cristina from Visalia, California, for example, knew exactly “what to expect” when she went, expecting, to the Care Pregnancy Resource Center. For years, Cristina had visited the center for its educational and spiritual programs. As an expectant mom, she enrolled in pregnancy and parenting classes that helped “answer all of my questions.” Cristina says the center has had an incredibly positive presence in her life: “I think that if I would not have found the center, my life would have been a disaster.”
Another woman purposefully sought pro-life counsel from the Pregnancy Help Center in Torrance, California. Krystal, already a single mother to a two-year-old boy, felt unable to raise another child and wanted to know what her options were. She decided that adoption was her best option. After a mutual friend introduced Krystal to Brenda and her husband, Krystal asked the couple to adopt her son. Along with pregnancy center staff, the couple accompanied Krystal throughout the remainder of her pregnancy. According to Brenda, women like Krystal:
are not being forced into not having an abortion, but are being shown that they have options and resources to choose life. The center removes a ‘crisis’ a woman is facing so that they can make a positive, life-affirming choice.
Women facing unexpected pregnancies who walk through the doors of pro-life pregnancy centers are treated in a loving, compassionate manner consistent with their dignity as women and soon-to-be mothers. Pregnancy centers provide childbirth and parenting classes, adoption resources, maternity and infant necessities, emotional support and counsel. Medical services such as pregnancy testing and ultrasounds are also becoming more common, in response to demand from women who want to know more. Unlike the brief experience women encounter at abortion clinics, pregnancy centers offer personalized attention and support that last beyond an initial consultation, often times continuing long after the child is born. And everything is provided free of charge.
The emotional, physical, and financial commitment to bringing forth and sustaining new life is daunting; for many women lacking support, it can even seem impossible. But facing what is difficult is heroic. And sometimes all these heroic women need is the kind of helping hand offered by pregnancy centers.
The FACT Act, by contrast, does not help these women so much as please the abortion industry by getting rid of the competition.
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is Legal Advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation.