A California judge has tossed a state law that requires “pregnancy centers,” which exist to provide alternatives to abortion, to notify clients that the state offers free abortion and contraception services.
The Reproductive FACT Act, passed in 2015, requires pregnancy counseling centers to provide notices with the following language:
California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number].
Critics of the law said that the law violated the First Amendment rights of the clinicians. As one told NPR at the time:
It’s like telling the Alcoholics Anonymous group that they have to have a large sign saying where people can get alcohol and booze for free … It’s like telling a Jewish synagogue that they can have their service, and do their thing, but they have to have a large sign where people can go to pray to receive Jesus.
On Tuesday, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gloria Trask agreed. In her opinion, quoted by the Orange County Register, she argued that the law exceeds the limitation on compelled speech by the state by forcing a pregnancy center “to speak words with which it profoundly disagrees when the State has numerous alternative methods of publishing its message.”
Pro-choice NARAL California criticized the ruling, saying in a statement that the law had “balanced the compelling interest to share information that impacts women’s health with organizations’ ability to freely express their views.” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has promised to appeal the ruling.
Many pregnancy centers had been defying the law, according to an investigation last year by a pro-choice group.