Hours before the 46th annual March for Life will commence in Washington, D.C., on Friday, a slew of pro-life advocates, including 22 states and 144 members of Congress are rallying beside pregnancy center network National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, supporting them in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, which the Supreme Court will hear this spring.
The lawsuit challenges a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy centers to disclose information about abortion. On its face, the law is discriminatory, as it specifically targets pregnancy centers and charges a $500 fine the first time they don’t comply, $1,000 for later offenses. Naturally groups like NARAL Pro-Choice California and Planned Parenthood supported the absurd legislation.
Alliance Defending Freedom is defending the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. In a statement, ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris said, “As the many briefs filed in this case affirm, no one should be forced to provide free advertising for the abortion industry — least of all pro-life pregnancy centers. Government-compelled expression strikes at the very heart of constitutionally protected liberties.”
Whether or not the government can compel speech has been a regular topic for the Supreme Court. In the Supreme Court case Riley v. National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, the Court ruled that the government “may not substitute its judgment as to how best to speak for that of speakers and listeners; free and robust debate cannot thrive if directed by the government.” The issue also came up almost immediately during the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission oral arguments at the Supreme Court.
While the case is related to abortion and, if the pregnancy centers win, will likely encourage the pro-life movement in California, the fundamental issue is a free speech issue, which affects people in all walks of life, industries, and activities. While it’s disappointing to see places like Planned Parenthood advocated a piece of legislation that was such a blatant attempt to squash free speech, the fact that so many states, members of Congress, and other influential organizations are supporting the pregnancy centers is positive and indicative of how the Supreme Court may see this case.
Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist in Washington, D.C., who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota. She was the 2010 recipient of the American Spectator's Young Journalist Award.
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