The Supreme Court says a California law that forces anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion violates the Constitution.
The 5-4 ruling Tuesday also casts doubts on similar laws in Hawaii and Illinois.
The California law took effect in 2016. It required that crisis pregnancy centers in California had to post a sign saying where women could go to obtain an abortion.
The centers said they were singled out and forced to deliver a message with which they disagreed. California said the law was needed to let poor women know all their options.
Justice Clarence Thomas said in his majority opinion said the centers “are likely to succeed” in their constitutional challenge to the law.
“California cannot co-opt the licensed facilities to deliver its message for it,” Thomas wrote for himself and his conservative colleagues, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. He called the requirement for unlicensed centers “unjustified and unduly burdensome.”
Justice Stephen Breyer said among the reasons the law should be upheld is that the high court has previously upheld state laws requiring doctors to tell women seeking abortions about adoption services.
“After all, the law must be evenhanded,” Breyer said in a dissenting opinion joined by his liberal colleagues, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice California was a prime sponsor of the California law.
Estimates of the number of crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S. run from 2,500 to more than 4,000, compared with fewer than 1,500 abortion providers, women’s rights groups said in a Supreme Court filing.
California’s law was challenged by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, an organization with ties to 1,500 pregnancy centers nationwide and 140 in California.
The court has previously upheld requirements that doctors in abortion clinics must tell patients about alternatives to abortion.
In another lawsuit over regulating crisis pregnancy centers, a federal appeals court in New York struck down parts of a New York City ordinance, although it upheld the requirement for unlicensed centers to say that they lack a license.
Other states have laws that regulate doctors’ speech in the abortion context. In Louisiana, Texas and Wisconsin, doctors must display a sonogram and describe the fetus to most pregnant women considering an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Similar laws have been blocked in Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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