Did you hear about the new bill that California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law?
Under penalty of whopping fines, the new law orders the abortion giant Planned Parenthood and every other abortion facility in the Golden State to post a prominent notice in their waiting rooms, or give the mothers written or digital notice, that they can go to pro-life pregnancy help centers instead and get what they need to give their babies life.
You haven’t heard that news?
I haven’t, either. That’s because what Brown really did was just the opposite: The bill he signed (AB775), named the Reproductive Fact Act, aims to punish pro-life pregnancy centers, which offer women and girls compassionate alternatives to abortion. Under penalty of ruinous fines for every “violation,” the law orders the pro-life centers to post notices and tell mothers that they can abort their babies and have California taxpayers foot the bill via the state’s expansive Medi-Cal program.
That program is paying for an increasing percentage of all California abortions, rising by nearly 69 percent between 1990 and 2010.
The new law’s text was reportedly written by a pro-abortion pressure group. It singles out pro-life facilities. The intent is clearly to put them out of business. Under penalty of crippling fines of $500 and $1,000 per “offense,” the law would make licensed pro-life medical clinics directly contradict their baby-saving mission, and violate their staffers’ consciences, by advertising for abortion providers.
The new law also orders pro-life centers, some of which do not need a medical license, to post the following notice on their sites and in all of their print and digital ads: “This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.” That makes the pro-life centers cast doubt upon their own qualifications and credibility. Again, this provision is not applied to other entities in California that take a different view of abortion.
What? you ask? No government body would dare impose such a totalitarian violation of Americans’ individual consciences? No lawmaker would dare coerce a group to do the exact opposite of what its whole purpose is? No politician would dare force private entities to refer clients to their competition? No law could tell selected private groups they must utter government-mandated speech, especially speech they regard as damaging to the person receiving it? And surely no court would uphold such an obviously unconstitutional trampling of individual liberty?
But unbelievably, all this is exactly what has happened. As of Jan. 1, thanks to the pro-abortion state legislature and its ratifier-in-chief Governor Jerry Brown, the state of California now officially targets pro-life medical clinics and pregnancy counseling centers in precisely those ways—and three courts have deemed the new law constitutional.
There is some hope in the situation, though.
In 2014, federal courts invalidated similar anti-pregnancy center laws in Maryland and New York. Currently, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, a national network of 1,350 pro-life pregnancy centers, 115 of them in California, is fighting the law. After oral arguments at a preliminary hearing on January 28 by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), seeking an injunction to halt enforcement of the law while it is being contested, a U.S. district court judge has taken the request under advisement.
Anne O’Connor, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates vice president of legal affairs, says:
We cannot allow this intrusion into the religious freedom of our pro-life members in California. If this Act is not successfully challenged, then [other] states, prompted by Planned Parenthood and the [rest of] the abortion industry, will pass similar legislation forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to become abortion referral agencies.
Astrid Bennett opposes the new law. She directs Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, a downtown L.A. center that saved 417 babies in 2015 despite being surrounded by nine abortion facilities. Confronted with the options the new law offers—referring for abortions or paying huge fines to the state—she has said, “We’d rather die than do either” and “I’ll never quit fighting.”
Brown, on the other hand, is just fine with violating pro-lifers’ religious freedom. As he infamously told the recent Paris climate conference, “never underestimate the coercive power of the central state in the service of good.” Or what it mistakes for the good.
Compare Brown’s words with these from Thomas Jefferson in 1809: “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.” May “the rights of conscience” prevail today, as Jefferson so deeply wished.