The Supreme Court said Tuesday that pregnancy centers established to persuade women to continue their pregnancies do not have to tell their clients about the availability of state-offered services, including abortion.
The court’s conservatives said a California law likely violates the First Amendment. It required what are called crisis pregnancy centers — they promise prenatal care and help when the child is born — to post notices or tell clients about the state’s service.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the 5 to 4 decision.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the dissent for the court’s liberals, and read parts of it from the bench.
The California legislature said some centers trick women into thinking they provide contraceptive services, including abortion, and sometimes delay a woman until it is too late to schedule an abortion.
But the centers said the law violates their constitutional rights by forcing them to deliver a message that is antithetical to their mission of encouraging women to carry on their pregnancies rather than end them.
The California law at issue requires centers that offer some medical services, such as ultrasound exams, to meet specific requirements and be licensed. They also must display or relay to a woman the state’s message:
“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.”
A clinic that does not offer medical services is required to post a sign include in advertisements that it is “not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.”
While similar notification laws in Baltimore and other jurisdictions have been struck down, a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld California’s act.
Full story at The Washington Post.