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Judge halts law forcing pro-life centers to advertise abortions
California Catholic Daily, Nov. 1, 2017
Go Mobile For Life’s mobile ultrasound unit, which serves women in Riverside County, Calif. (image from pregnancyhelpnews.com)
Editor’s note: we recently published a related story, “Does it violate free speech?“. Though the same issues are at stake, the following story involving a Riverside judge’s decision was in a state court and unrelated to the federal case.
In a major victory for free speech, Riverside County Superior Court Justice Gloria C. Trask ruled late Monday that California must not force pro-life pregnancy medical clinics to post signage promoting state-covered abortions to their clients.
A permanent injunction that applies to over 200 privately funded pregnancy centers in the state that offer free alternatives to abortion. The ruling puts a stop to the state’s so-called “Reproductive FACT Act” — a 2015 law that mandated pro-life centers must post signage and inform clients about the state’s taxpayer-funded abortions and birth control through its Medi-Cal program.
“We are thrilled with Judge Trask’s ruling, which is a huge victory for free speech,” Scott Scharpen, the head administrator of “Go Mobile For Life,” a mobile ultrasound unit that serves women in Riverside County, said. “The whole notion of being compelled to share information with our patients about abortion availability, which is contrary to our mission and purpose, is fundamentally wrong.
“Lives will be saved because of this ruling.”
Pro-life advocates, including Alliance Defending Freedom and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) — who are waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a statewide appeal to the law — have argued since the bill’s inception in the State Assembly that it tramples on the constitutionally protected rights of free speech and free religious expression.
Before Monday, those arguments fell on deaf ears throughout an appeals process that including an affirmation by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — the most frequently reversed court in the U.S.
Unlike the previous appeals, which appealed to the U.S. Constitution, Scharpen and his legal team of Tyler & Bursch, LLP and Advocates for Faith & Freedom had appealed to the court on the basis that the law violates California’s 1849 Declaration of Rights, which guarantees the “individual freedom of mind.”
In her ruling Monday, Trask agreed that the Reproductive FACT Act violates free speech protections, noting that, “compelled speech of a political or cultural nature is not the tool of a free government.”
Elsewhere in her decision, Trask wrote that if the state’s primary goal is to raise awareness as to the availability of its programs, it has several ways to do so, including public service announcements and even purchasing billboard space, “directly in front of Scharpen Foundation’s clinic.”
While it is expected that California’s Attorney General Xavier Beccera will challenge Trask’s ruling, it remains to be seen how the decision will affect pregnancy centers’ pending appeal to the Supreme Court.
Danielle White, legal counsel for Heartbeat International — a network of pregnancy help organizations, including Scharpen’s and close to 100 more in California — said the state-level ruling will likely put the pending Supreme Court challenge into a holding pattern while Beccera fights the injunction.