Should crisis pregnancy centers have to post signs telling women that they can get an abortion elsewhere in the state of California? That’s what the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide this term, in a fight that pits reproductive rights against free speech.
The justices are expected to rule on the legality of a law that requires non-profit, pro-life crisis centers disclose whether they're licensed and notify women of state-funded abortion services. The 2015 FACT Act was almost immediately challenged when it was passed three years ago.
The National Institute for Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), an umbrella organization representing more than 130 pregnancy centers in California, says that the FACT Act unfairly discriminates against clinics with an anti-abortion point of view, and violates their right to free speech.
“They set out to target these centers because of their views because they're pro-life and to essentially either shut them down or force them to point the way to abortion, and California can't put its thumb on the debate that way,” said Kristen Waggoner, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom, the group representing crisis pregnancy centers in the Supreme Court case. Waggoner points out that the FACT Act carves out exemptions for centers that already provide abortion services.
The state, on the other hand, says the law is simply about transparency.
“There's nothing in our law that prevents the extremist activists in these clinics from saying anything that they want. They can continue to share the lies and inaccuracies that they've been doing,” said CA State Assemblyman David Chiu, who wrote the FACT Act, adding: “Our law is very simple. It simply says you need to provide a one or two line notice to someone who's walking in the door about whether the facilities licensed or if it is licensed what kind of services are available in California. That's it.”
VICE News gained exclusive access to one of the crisis pregnancy centers at the heart of the Supreme Court fight. Watch on HBO.