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A recent Ninth Circuit decision requires all crisis pregnancy centers to distribute information about publicly funded contraception and abortion services. This is not welcome news for pro-life groups. California's Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act went into effect on January 1st, 2016 and requires that pregnancy centers and clinics provide a notice to their patients about the available, publicly funded, prenatal, abortion and family planning services.
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, a pro-life organization, and two other groups, challenged the act's constitutionality and sought a preliminary injunction exempting them from posting the required-by-law notifications. After the lower court rejected and dismissed their claims, they appealed. The 9th Circuit upheld the act in a decision published last Friday.
What Is the FACT Act?
The California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act, known as the Reproductive FACT Act, requires crisis pregnancy centers and other pregnancy clinics to provide patients or clients with information about publicly funded and available services for abortions, prenatal care, and contraceptives. Additionally, facilities that are not licensed are required to post an additional notification advising clients that the facility is not licensed by the State of California.
According to the Washington Times, the Reproductive FACT Act was a response by the California legislature to the increase in pro-life focused crisis pregnancy centers that advertise to pregnant women considering abortion with the focus of persuading the women not to abort. The California legislature found it important to the welfare of the state that pregnant women be provided with all the information about their available options so they can make the best choice for themselves.
Free Speech Challenge to FACT
The pro-life groups challenged the FACT Act on the grounds of free speech. The challenge was based on the act's requirement that the crisis pregnancy centers would be forced to post a statement that went against the center's beliefs. While the circuit court recognized that the case raises a First Amendment issue, the court squarely decided that the act is constitutional.
The Ninth Circuit ruled that regulating the health and welfare of the people of the state is a very compelling purpose. Also, the court found that the purpose of the California legislature in enacting the FACT Act was sufficient to require that centers and clinics post the required notices.