In a 5 to 4 decision in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra on Tuesday June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court has yet again sided with reactionary religious forces.
In 2015, California passed the Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency) act. The act makes sense. The fake anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers engage in deceptive and dishonest manipulation in order to undermine our reproductive rights. They are not true medical centers and even those with certification provide limited medical care. The state provides free and low-cost abortion, contraception and prenatal care to low-income women through Medicaid. For those centers with certification, they were required to post information on the state programs. For those without certification, they were required to post that they weren’t certified. Shouldn’t women have access to that knowledge?
According the Supreme Court, the state requirement infringes on the “deeply held religious beliefs” of those running the CPCs. The law didn’t stop them from lying to pregnant women. It didn’t require that they even go through a certification process. It didn’t infringe on the centers’ right to speak, exist or act against the interests of women everywhere. Yet it somehow infringed on their free speech rights that they state they were not certified or post information about state programs if they were certified.
The decision has emboldened right-wing forces that have been on the march against women’s rights for decades now. In a statement to Rewire News, Kevin Theriot, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, is quoted: “We will be asking courts in Illinois and Hawaii to apply the NIFLA ruling to strike down compelled speech laws in both states.” The ADF is the “Christian” legal organization that argued on behalf of NIFLA in the Supreme Court case and also represented Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
NIFLA counts 135 California CPCs as members. CPCs are almost all located in low-income neighborhoods, where abortion access is more limited to begin with. They often choose names similar to nearby health care centers so as to further confuse patrons. They offer ultrasounds, free pregnancy tests and “counseling.” This so-called counseling can include anti-abortion videos and graphic images as well totally unscientific information about abortion and contraception.
The pregnancy centers are a symptom of a war on reproductive rights that has been waged through legal action in cities and states across the country and protests against and attacks on abortion providers and reproductive health care centers. There are three times as many CPCs as there are clinics that provide abortions. These clinics even receive federal funding, some $30 million in federal funding from 2001 to 2006.
In the NIFLA vs. Becerra decision, the Supreme Court contradicted its own earlier ruling. Almost 30 years ago, the Supreme Court upheld a law requiring abortion providers to provide alternative information, including about adoption, to women seeking abortion. At this moment, 20 states also require abortion providers to provide medically inaccurate information to abortion seekers. The U.S. government maintains a double standard for abortion providers and for those who would undermine reproductive rights.
Abortion is not a divisive issue, nor is it a moral issue. In fact, it is a health issue. It is an issue of access to a full range of reproductive healthcare that demonstrably improves maternal health, infant health and the welfare of the population. The United States, considering its vast resources and wealth, is reprehensibly behind on issues of reproductive healthcare.
The fake clinics that have now won the protection of the Supreme Court should not have free speech rights. They should be shut down for providing false, medically inaccurate information. They should be shuttered for purposely deceiving women.
ExposeFakeClinics is a coalition of groups calling for a week of action Aug.10-19 to call attention to the deceptive work of the CPCs. It is action, organization and mobilization that is necessary to confront the anti-abortion organizations and to win gains in our struggle for reproductive rights. It is clear that no institution of the United States government, whether the courts or the Congress, are capable of doing so.