On Monday, Riverside County Superior Court Justice Gloria C. Trask ruled that California has no right to force pro-life pregnancy medical clinics to post signs promoting state-covered abortions to their clients.
That halts the effects of California’s 2015 “Reproductive FACT Act,” which forced pro-life centers to advertise for the state’s taxpayer-funded abortions and birth control through its Medi-Cal program.
Roughly 200 privately funded pregnancy centers offer free alternatives to abortion.
As pregnancyhelpnews.com reports, Scott Scharpen, the head administrator of “Go Mobile For Life,” a mobile ultrasound unit that serves women in Riverside County, said, “We are thrilled with Judge Trask’s ruling, which is a huge victory for free speech. 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.”
The 2015 law was unanimously supported by Democrats, and had already been enforced in the city of Los Angeles. To make matters worse, it served as a template for states such as Hawaii and Connecticut to target pro-life pregnancy centers.
The champions for life, in this case, were Alliance Defending Freedom and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), who fought against the 2015 law, positing that it abused constitutionally protected rights of free speech and free religious expression.
But Scharpen and his legal team of Tyler & Bursch, LLP and Advocates for Faith & Freedom took a different tack, appealing to the court on the basis that the law violated California’s 1849 Declaration of Rights, which guarantees the “individual freedom of mind.”
Trask agreed, stating, “compelled speech of a political or cultural nature is not the tool of a free government.” She added that if the state wished to continue its advocacy of abortion services, it could issue public service announcements or buy billboard space “directly in front of Scharpen Foundation's clinic.”
Trask pointed out that the 2015 law left “patients with the belief they were referred to an abortion provider by that clinic … Compelled speech must be subject to reasonable limitation. This statute compels the clinic to speak words with which it profoundly disagrees when the State has numerous alternative methods of publishing its message. In this case, however virtuous the State’s ends, they do not justify its means.”
California’s Attorney General Xavier Beccera is expected to challenge Trask’s ruling; Danielle White, legal counsel for Heartbeat International, said:
This is such an encouraging win for free speech and for the pro-life community. We’re praying this will be a major turning point to allow clinics like Go Mobile For Life to keep their attention on reaching women who desperately need help. Every woman should have all the information she needs to protect her child during an unexpected pregnancy, and this ruling is a great step forward to that goal.