Abortion Opponents Call Law Forced Speech

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – Two anti-abortion pregnancy clinics sued California, challenging a new law that requires them to provide information about abortion and contraceptive services.
     The two Northern California clinics claim Assembly Bill 775, signed into law Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown, violates their rights to freedom of speech and religion.
     They sued Attorney General Kamala Harris on Saturday in Federal Court. Assembly Bill 775, the Reproductive FACT Act , requires facilities that provide pregnancy-related services to list information about where women can obtain low-cost contraceptive options, including abortion.
     The plaintiffs – A Woman’s Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic, and the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Northern California – are religious nonprofits that offer free services to pregnant women, including ultrasound exams and education about nutrition and sexually transmitted diseases.
     They claim AB 775 requires them to “disseminate the State of California’s message for which the clinic disagrees”: an unconstitutional form of forced speech.
     “The law mandates speech that plaintiffs would not otherwise make,” the complaint states. “Moreover, the manner of the notice requirement is such that it is among the first communications made to clients.”
     The bill passed both houses by a combined 73-40 margin and requires clinics offering pregnancy-related services to inform patients of low-cost options via a conspicuous sign or a printed notice.
     Shortly after Brown signed the bill, Harris commended the governor and the Legislature for it.
     “I am proud to have co-sponsored the Reproductive FACT Act, which ensures that all women have equal access to comprehensive reproductive health care services, and that they have the facts they need to make informed decisions about their health and their lives,” Harris said in a statement Saturday.
     Offenders can be fined $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for each additional offense.
     The Pacific Justice Institute filed the complaint for the clinics. The institute said forcing the clinics to relay the government’s message conflicts with the alternatives it seeks to provide pregnant women.
     “Forcing a religious pro-life charity to proclaim a pro-abortion declaration is on its face an egregious violation of both the free speech and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution,” the institute’s president Brad Dacus said.
     They seek declaratory judgment that AB 775 violates the First and 14th Amendments, and want its enforcement enjoined.
     The law is to take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

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