Recent days have meant lots of bad news for California, or at least for those in the state who lean left on the political spectrum.
On Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom appeared to derail the state’s bullet train project. His announcement came one day after U.S. District Court Judge Terry Hatter for the Central District of California ordered the state to pay three pro-life pregnancy centers $399,000 for their legal fees.
The Mountain Right to Life v. Becerra court win revolves around the “California Reproductive FACT Act, a law which compelled pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to promote abortion,” Liberty Counsel explained.
It was the Supreme Court’s June 2018 ruling in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra that helped Liberty Counsel, a Christian law firm, and the three pro-life crisis pregnancy centers it represented get the win. Aside from Mountain Right to Life, two other Southern California-based pregnancy centers — His Nesting Place and Birth Choice of the Desert — were involved in the case.
The Supreme Court had ruled “that crisis pregnancy centers cannot be forced to promote abortions,” Liberty Counsel wrote. As a result, “the state agreed the law was unconstitutional and a permanent injunction was entered blocking the law.”
The $399,000 award is to cover the pregnancy centers’ “legal fees and other costs,” The Christian Post explained, meaning it will be paid out to Liberty Counsel. The 2015 FACT Act had “mandated that all licensed pregnancy health centers, among other things, include a sign that refers patients to abortion clinics.”
The penalty for those in violation was a $500 fine for their first offense. Each offense afterward could cost $1,000.
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, released a statement celebrating the court victory. “This is a great victory for children, mothers, and families,” he said.
“Pro-life pregnancy centers will no longer be compelled to speak a message that goes against their mission to save the lives of babies and women. The law violated freedom of speech.” Staver added.
“The First Amendment protects the right to speak and the right not to speak. Faith-based pro-life pregnancy centers cannot be forced to promote human genocide,” he concluded.
Staver’s remarks echo the concurring opinion written by then-Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. “It does appear that viewpoint discrimination is inherent in the design and structure of this Act,” Kennedy wrote.
“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,” he added.
“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,” Kennedy wrote.
This victory for Liberty Counsel and the pro-life pregnancy centers flies in the face of the strong push toward late-term abortions being made across the country. Some no doubt saw those this being instituted in New York as a sign the pro-life movement was losing ground.
This win in California may offer new hope to the pro-life crowd. The Supreme Court ruling is a powerful statement about the Constitution and the right of pregnancy centers to not be forced into advocating for abortion.
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