The Supreme Court ruled today that California could not require that pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) promote abortion services on their premises. The law doing so, the 5-4 majority held, is forced speech. (A law couldn’t make the PRC’s bake cakes saying “YAY ABORTION!” either, presumably.)
The ruling in National Institute for Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra holds that by imposing the law, California created “an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill [PRCs’] protected speech.”
California’s 2015 Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency) Act mandated that any facility that provides care to pregnant women must post this notice:
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].
Fines for violating the law were $500 for the first offense after 30 days, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for majority, concluded that the requirement “alters the content” of the licensed centers’ speech by requiring them to notify pregnant women about the availability of low- or no-cost abortions even though the centers’ goal is to persuade women not to have abortions at all. This could be justified by a “compelling interest,” Thomas wrote, but he noted that there are other ways —an advertising campaign or posting notices on public property near the licensed centers—that would not force the centers to promote the very activity that they exist to stop.