WASHINGTON – Should the state of California be allowed to force non-profit, often Christian, pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion centers?
It's a question before the Supreme Court, with justices hearing oral arguments in a case that pits the state of California, which offers state-funded abortions, against the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA).
Both conservative and liberal justices voiced skepticism Tuesday about the "Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency Act" (Reproductive FACT), a law that requires pregnancy centers to tell their clients about the availability of abortion at little or no cost.
Centers that support pregnant women, but aren't licensed to provide medical services are required to include disclaimers in their advertising in up to 13 languages that they don't offer medical help.
"Americans shouldn't be forced by the government to promote messages that conflict with their beliefs," said Michael Farris, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, which will argue the case for NIFLA.
California says it's necessary to educate poor women about their options, but pro-life advocates say there are plenty of other ways to educate Californians about state funded abortions.
"Information about abortion is widely available. Under the Constitution, California is required to respect the free speech rights of all of its citizens—not just those in the abortion industry," said Farris.
The centers say they are being singled out and forced to deliver a message with which they disagree.
Meanwhile, pro-life advocates in other states are watching the case carefully.
"The billion-dollar abortion industry should not be able to use the power of government to force its competition to provide it with free advertising. The Supreme Court has always ruled that such compelled speech is automatically unconstitutional. We trust they will do so again in this case," said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia.
A ruling in the case is expected in June.