Update: Supreme Court sides with Pro-Life Pregnancy Resource Centers

This week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs), finding California’s Orwellian-named “Reproductive Fact Act” unconstitutionally compels the speech of PRCs. In a 5-4 majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the notice requirements placed on unlicensed PRCs “unduly burden speech” and the notice requirements placed on licensed PRCs “likely violate” the First Amendment. Justice Thomas was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch.
The Supreme Court decision was somewhat expected, as many Justices, including those of the ideological left, were dubious of the argument presented by the state of California when defending the policy clearly designed to target Pro-Life PRCs.
The NIFLA case challenges two provisions of the California Law enacted in 2015. The law requires unlicensed PRCs to disclose a public notice—simultaneously in as many as 13 languages—that they are unlicensed and that no licensed provider supervises the provision of services. Moreover, the law compels licensed PRCs to essentially advertise medical services, including abortion, on behalf of the California government. As some Justices themselves demonstrated during oral arguments, nothing prevents the state of California from conducting a government sponsored billboard campaign to disseminate the same information. These stipulations therefore represent a reprehensible attempt to specifically encroach on the free speech rights of Pro-Life organizations in California. A more extensive analysis on the merits of the case can be found here.
Such attacks on free speech are not unique to California Democrats. Liberal Republicans in Austin have attempted to stifle Pro-Lifers’ ability to freely and effectively advocate for preborn children, pregnant mothers, and vulnerable patients. For example, Charlie Geren, a member of the liberal Texas House leadership, led the charge by authoring House Bill 1533 in 2015. This anti-free speech bill sought to limit the influence of conservative organizations supporting strong conservative candidates in Texas elections. These limitations adversely affect candidates challenging liberal incumbents who routinely become targets for failing to honor their Pro-Life promises to voters. Also, Texas Right to Life has been fighting back the nationwide phenomenon of silencing conservative voices on higher education campuses, a situation that has unfortunately infiltrated Texas institutions and discriminated against Pro-Life college students.
Texas Right to Life knows that the Pro-Life movement cannot successfully transform anti-Life cultural perceptions or build a protective legal framework if our cause cannot freely and effectively articulate our life-affirming message in the state Capitol, on college campuses, or in pregnancy resource centers. The outcome of the case is a victory not only for the California PRCs, but for the Pro-Life movement as a whole.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the callous law on grounds the law regulated “professional speech.” However, in the opinion, Justice Thomas roundly rejected that line of argument, finding that precedent “is not implicated here.” Furthermore, Thomas rejected the idea that the notice requirements are a method of informed consent, stating “the licensed notice at issue here is not an informed consent requirement or any other regulation of professional conduct. The notice does not facilitate informed consent to a medical procedure. In fact, it is not tied to a procedure at all.”
The consensus among the five Justices was strong enough for Justice Kennedy to write a concurrence, in which he compared California to an authoritarian regime.
Given the ubiquitous skepticism of the Justices during oral argument, the 5-4 ruling is tighter than some legal experts expected. However, oral argument foreshadowed the strong opinion of the Supreme Court, which affirms the right of the Pro-Life movement to effectively administer care to pregnant women. This case demonstrates how anti-Life forces are terrified of the momentum the Pro-Life cause and of our resounding message. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, anti-Life authoritarians can’t bully the Pro-Life movement into silence.