Supreme Court Strikes Down Attack on Pro-Life Nonprofits by Pro-Abortion Interests
This Tuesday the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in NIFLA v. Becerra, declaring California’s 2015 Reproductive FACT Act unconstitutional. The ruling marks a crucial win for pro-life nonprofits such as the National Institute for Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), crisis pregnancy centers, and free speech supporters.
The California law required both licensed and unlicensed crisis-pregnancy centers and similar pregnancy assistance facilities to effectively advertise for government-funded abortion clinics. This provision would have forced the many crisis-pregnancy centers run by religious interests and others opposed to abortion to violate their consciences.
In 2015, then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) and a host of left-wing nonprofits supported the bill in hopes of forcing crisis pregnancy centers to violate their religious beliefs by requiring them to direct clients to abortion services–in direct opposition to their beliefs. The list of pro-choice nonprofits backing the California law included:
- NARAL Pro-Choice California (cosponsor)
- Black Women for Wellness (cosponsor)
- Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California
- League of Women Voters of California
- National Abortion Federation
NIFLA, a nonprofit that supports pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, challenged the constitutionality of the bill. Thomas Glessner, president of NIFLA, describes the nonprofit as “an umbrella group that gives legal and medical assistance to more than 1,350 of these life-affirming centers, including 125 in California.”
For about two years, NIFLA fought the legal battle to protect such facilities from the California bill and was joined by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit religious liberty law firm which filed a friend-of-the-court-brief in support. Mark Rienzi, president of Becket, issued a statement after the Supreme Court ruled in NIFLA’s favor, saying:
that both sides of a debate matter, and the government cannot silence one side’s speech just because it may be unpopular. Crisis pregnancy centers like NIFLA serve women and children according to their religious mission, and California should respect that.
While Justice Clarence Thomas authored the authoritative majority opinion for the Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurrence “join[s] the Court’s opinion in all respects” and forcefully condemns the bill:
This law is a paradigmatic example of the serious threat presented when government seeks to impose its own message in the place of individual speech, thought, and expression. For here the State requires primarily pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions. This compels individuals to contradict their most deeply held beliefs, beliefs grounded in basic philosophical, ethical, or religious precepts, or all of these. And the history of the Act’s passage and its underinclusive application suggest a real possibility that these individuals were targeted because of their beliefs.
The California Legislature included in its official history the congratulatory statement that the Act was part of California’s legacy of “forward thinking.” But it is not forward thinking to force individuals to “be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view [they] fin[d] unacceptable.
Capital Research Center has previously covered nonprofits such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood, whose California affiliate wholeheartedly endorsed the unconstitutional, authoritarian legislation struck down in Tuesday’s decision.