WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Tuesday, June 26, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a California-based pregnancy resource center would not be forced to promote abortions.
“The Supreme Court ruled on National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of California, a case regarding a California law that threatened to shut down pregnancy resource centers serving women and children in need,” according to Joe Carter of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
ABOUT THE CASE
“The case of NIFLA v. Becerra dealt with important First Amendment freedom issues as related to pregnancy resource centers who work with a pro-life mission.
“In October 2015, California enacted the Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency) Act. This law requires that licensed medical centers, including pro-life pregnancy centers (aka crisis-pregnancy centers [CPC]/pregnancy help organizations [PHO]) provide a notice to women stating, ‘California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at (insert the telephone number). The law also forces non-medical pregnancy centers to add to all advertisements a large disclosure in multiple languages about their non-medical status. Violation of this law results in a fine of $500 for a first offense and then $1,000 for each subsequent offense.”
The High Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. In the ruling, the majority opinion was authored by Justice Clarence Thomas.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who filed a concurring opinion joined by Roberts, Alito and Gorsuch, said, “The history of the Act’s passage and its underinclusive application suggest a real possibility that these individuals were targeted because of their beliefs. … Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties.”
SOUTHERN BAPTIST REACTION
Southern Baptist leaders praised the decision. Hance Dilbeck, executive director-treasurer for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said, “We are grateful that the Supreme Court upheld the religious liberty and freedom of speech of faith-based pregnancy resource centers, who do so much to serve women and unborn children in Oklahoma and across the country.”
ERLC President Russell Moore said, “The Supreme Court got it right today with the NIFLA case: the state cannot and must not be able to force pro-life organizations to participate in abortion. This is a victory for freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and for countless unborn babies. We should be grateful for this ruling, and we ought to pray for the crucial work of pregnancy resources centers around the country.”
The ERLC and other groups including the National Associate of Evangelicals, Concerned Women for America and Samaritan’s Purse, in filing a friend-of-the-court last January, opposing California’s 2015 Reproductive FACT ACT.
For more information on the issue, visit www.erlc.com.