A week after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a decision in support of crisis pregnancy centers, a prominent anti-abortion legal defense organization is challenging the constitutionality of similar laws in other states.
“We will be asking courts in Illinois and Hawaii to apply the NIFLA ruling to strike down compelled speech laws in both states,” said Kevin Theriot, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), in a statement to Rewire.News. The ADF is the Christian legal defense organization that argued on behalf of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) in the Supreme Court case.
The case, NIFLA v. Becerra, challenged the Reproductive FACT Act, a California law that required crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to inform women about abortions and contraception options. It also required unlicensed CPCs to disclose that they have not earned medical certification.
In a 5-4 decision issued on June 26, a conservative majority of judges led by Justice Clarence Thomas ruled that the California law likely violates the First Amendment. Writing for the majority, Thomas said in his opinion that the law “targets speakers, not speech, and imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech.”
Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are facilities created by anti-abortion organizations to counsel women against the medical procedure. CPCs are generally staffed by anti-abortion activists and some do not have licensed medical personnel on staff. There are approximately 2,700 CPCs nationwide, more than three times the number of clinics that provide abortions. They are commonly referred to as “fake women’s health centers” by abortion rights activists and, reports Rewire.News, “peer-reviewed research and both federal and independent investigations have caught fake clinic staff dispensing unscientific information on abortion risks.”
The laws in Illinois and Hawaii are currently under legal injunctions as a result of pending lawsuits. Opponents such as ADF believe that the NIFLA decision buoys their argument that the laws are unconstitutional and should be overturned on the basis that they deny staff freedom of speech.
The Illinois law requires health care providers who have religious objections to abortion to refer patients who request information about the procedure to those who perform it. The ADF has previously filed suits in state and federal court to block the 2016 law.
In Hawaii, centers must give patients information on state programs that offer free and low-cost family planning services under a 2017 law. In addition, they are required to abide by state and federal patient privacy laws.
The laws in both states had taken aim at religiously affiliated facilities and crisis pregnancy centers, and provoked controversy—pitting health-care providers, who contend that fake clinics peddle anti-choice misinformation, against religious groups that argue the facilities are an exercise of their faith.
ADF is expected to petition the courts next week to strike down the two laws.