Although any ruling is weeks away, several Supreme Court justices on Tuesday had harsh criticism for a California law that forces pro-life clinics to promote abortion.
Both liberal and conservative justices took verbal shots at the law, which was passed by California in 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The law requires that crisis pregnancy centers licensed by the state inform clients, using state-mandated language, that the state offers funding to help women pay for an abortion, according to the Weekly Standard. The law also requires those that only provide counseling to inform clients there are no medical personnel at the centers. The law only covers non-profit clinics, including faith-based ones. It exempts doctors and for-profit clinics.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg highlighted her concern after Michael P. Farris, a lawyer for the centers, said that any advertisements put out by the centers California has targeted would require the disclosures to be published in equally large print that is used for the center’s message and in multiple languages.
“If you have to say that, those two sentences in 13 different languages, it can be very burdensome,” she said.
Justice Anthony Kennedy asked California deputy solicitor general Joshua Klein if a center that took out a two-word billboard saying “choose life” would be compelled to include in its message the 29 words required by California’s law in equally large print.
Upon being informed that this would be required, and that the message must be in multiple languages, Kennedy made his feelings known on the law.
“It seems to me that means that this is an undue burden. And that should suffice to invalidate the statute,” said Kennedy, who is often a swing vote on the ideologically divided court.
The court’s newest member, Justice Neil Gorsuch, said that the state was unfairly forcing one group to spread the state’s message, according to Fox News.
“If it’s about just ensuring that everyone has full information about their options, why should the state free-ride on a limited number of clinics to provide that information?” Gorsuch said. “If you’re trying to educate a class of persons about their rights, it’s pretty unusual to force a private speaker to do that for you under the First Amendment.”
The justices were not unanimous in their condemnation of the law. Justice Sonia Sotomayor cited an image she found on line of a nurse standing by an ultrasound machine that was being used by a non-licensed pregnancy center.
“If you’re giving people advice about pregnancy when you are not a licensed facility, please explain to me what is both misleading, incorrect or suggestive in any way that a person has to do something like go to a doctor,” she said. “How is it doing anything other than telling people that, despite how the picture looks on the website, this is not a medical facility?”
Kennedy later rebuked Sotomayor for researching the Internet instead of the case record.
Other justices indicated that they had problems with the California law’s apparent targeting of pregnancy centers operated by community- and faith-based groups.
“If it has been gerrymandered, that’s a serious issue,” said Justice Elena Kagan.
California’s law “has a lot of crazy exceptions. … What you’re left with is a very strange pattern, and, gee, it turns out just about the only clinics that are covered by this are pro-life clinics,” commented Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.