Informed Choices is what its president describes as a “life-affirming” pregnancy center on the edge of downtown Gilroy in northern California. Even as it advertises “free pregnancy services” and promises in signs on its door and inside to discuss all options with pregnant women, Informed Choices exists to steer women away from abortion. The state of California, prompted by abortion rights groups, worried that vulnerable, uninsured women were going to Informed Choices and other anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers expecting they would get comprehensive care. That prompted passage of a new law requiring crisis pregnancy centers that are licensed by the state to let their clients know that abortions and other medical services are available elsewhere, for little or no cost. It also requires unlicensed facilities to posts signs disclosing they are unlicensed. That law has led to a Supreme Court fight at the intersection of abortion and free speech. Christine Vatuone, the president of Informed Choices, said that posting such a sign in her licensed center’s waiting room or handing information to a client would force Informed Choices to act as “a billboard for the abortion industry.” The court is hearing the case Tuesday. While justices won’t be dealing with broader questions about the right to an abortion, the outcome could affect not only California’s law, but those in other states that have been shaped by anti-abortion groups. Some states, for example, require doctors to display a sonogram and describe the fetus to women considering an abortion. 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, including Informed Choices. Anne O’Connor, NIFLA’s vice president of legal affairs, said the centers exist to promote childbirth. “The crux of this issue is, can the government force anybody … to advertise for a message that they’re morally opposed to. We feel strongly that it violates our First Amendment rights,” O’Connor said in an interview in the Washington offices of Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian law firm representing NIFLA at the Supreme Court. The Trump administration agrees with NIFLA that the law violates the rights of licensed centers, but, unlike NIFLA, has no objection to the requirement for the unlicensed centers. California argues that it is not stepping on speech rights by requiring the centers to provide what it calls a neutral statement of fact about health care options for pregnant women. For the abortion rights organizations, the information is a matter of protecting vulnerable women who may not know that the state offers family planning, abortion care and pre-natal services. The groups have complained for years that the centers mislead women and pressure them not to have abortions. Crisis pregnancy centers are “fake women’s health centers” that try to look like clinics that offer abortion and birth control, even choosing names like Informed Choices to muddy the waters, said Amy Everitt, the California director of NARAL Pro-Choice Amerca. “But they only have one option, to carry a pregnancy to term. And they have one agenda, to stop women from accessing abortion care and birth control,” Everitt said in her office in San Francisco. Estimates of the number of crisis pregnancy centers 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.

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