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Judges Won’t Block Law|for Anti-Abortionists

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Two federal judges have refused "faith-based pregnancy care centers'" request to enjoin a California law that requires them to give customers "truthful and not misleading" information about contraception and abortion.

Livingwell Medical Clinic et al. failed to persuade U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White that the California Reproductive FACT Act violates religious nonprofits' freedom of speech and religion.

The FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency) Act will take effect Jan. 1, 2106. It requires that "licensed covered facilities," such as the plaintiffs, "disseminate to clients on site a notice indicating that the State of California provides free or low-income access to comprehensive family planning services, prenatal care, and abortion for all eligible women," White wrote in his summary issued Dec. 17.

"The disclosures do not include language endorsing or recommending such services," White wrote. "Rather, the mandated notice only notifies consumers of the existence of state-funded options."

The three plaintiffs, "nonprofit faith-based pregnancy care centers," sued Attorney General Kamala Harris and other state, city and county officials in October.

The Legislature approved the FACT Act in October, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law.

The plaintiffs claim that posting information about abortion services would violate their mission "to help women with unplanned pregnancies meet and accept the stress and challenges that come with unplanned pregnancies ... and to minister in the name of Jesus Christ to women and men facing unplanned pregnancies by providing support and medical services to them that will empower them to make healthy life choices."

They say they will ignore the law regardless of what Judge White says.

Violation of the law is punishable by a $500 fine for a first offense and a $1,000 fine for subsequent offenses.

White found that though the plaintiffs have "articulated a concrete plan to violate the law," they have not shown that they "will suffer a resulting injury."

He also rejected their motion for a stay pending appeal, finding that "their speech will not actually be chilled" and that "public interest would be served" by allowing the Act to take effect in full, as it was enacted through a "presumptively reasoned democratic processes."

The plaintiffs are represented by Francis Manion of the Kentucky-based American Center for Law and Justice.

A ruling in a second case issued Monday - by a different federal judge - netted the same result for abortion foes.

In that case, three crisis pregnancy centers asked U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller of Sacramento for a similar injunction to block the law from taking effect on Jan. 1 as planned.

But Mueller found that California's interest in providing residents with accurate information regarding publicly funded health services and where those services can be found outweighs the centers' free-speech concerns.

Mueller also found the centers' free expression of religion rights are not violated by the law, since its language contains neutral general information only and applies equally to all women's health care providers - not just religious-based crisis pregnancy clinics.

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