SAN FRANCISCO — A California law that requires pregnancy centers to inform women about publicly-funded abortion services does not discriminate against clinics opposed to abortion and is narrowly written to achieve the state’s goal of ensuring pregnant women have adequate family-planning information, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a motion filed by pregnancy centers opposed to abortion that sought to immediately block the law. The centers said the law, which went into effect this year, violated their freedom of speech and religion. The law is designed to address deceptive practices by crisis pregnancy centers — such as linking abortion to breast cancer — that aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions.
The three-judge panel said the plaintiffs were not likely to succeed on their free speech claim because the law applied to all licensed pregnancy centers, not just those opposed to abortion, and therefore did not discriminate based on a particular viewpoint. They were also unlikely to succeed on their freedom of religion claim, the court said.
“The Licensed Notice is closely drawn to achieve California’s interests in safeguarding public health and fully informing Californians of the existence of publicly-funded medical services,” Judge Dorothy Nelson wrote for the court.
Matt Bowman, an attorney for the pregnancy centers, said he will discuss the possibility of an appeal with his clients. The state has about 200 crisis pregnancy centers.
“It’s bad enough if the government tells you what you can’t say, but a law that tells you what you must say — under threat of severe punishment — is even more unjust and dangerous,” Bowman, of the Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement. The alliance is a non-profit Christian group.
The 9th Circuit also refused to block a part of the law that requires centers to disclose if they are not medically licensed.