This week marked a great victory for the pro-life movement, especially here in California, as the Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting the free speech rights of California pro-life pregnancy clinics against a state law known as AB 775.
Labeled with the misnomer of the ‘Reproductive FACT Act,’ AB 775 was signed into law in late 2015 after pro-abortion activists launched an undercover video campaign to discredit our work. It specifically targeted licensed clinics like ours and pregnancy counseling centers, most of whom are faith-based, to post signs or disclosures about the availability of ‘free or low-cost’ family planning and abortion services – in direct violation of our core beliefs.
In January 2016, when the law went into effect, we reluctantly posted the signs. Why? Because we knew that pro-abortion activists would not stop at the law’s passage, and would step up the pressure on local authorities to enforce it, which carries fines of up to $1,000 per violation. That’s exactly what happened just a few months later in Los Angeles.
But several brave pro-life leaders of licensed clinics and counseling centers, stepped up as lead plaintiffs to challenge the law. Represented by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), they sought a preliminary injunction against enforcement of AB 775. After being rejected by the 9th Circuit, the Supreme Court’s ruling in NIFLA v Becerra grants California’s estimated 170 pro-life clinics and centers a much-needed reprieve from AB 775’s enforcement.
Our patients are always informed up front that we do not refer or provide abortion. Laws like AB 775 have no basis other than to coerce faith-based organizations to tow a state-directed pro-abortion agenda.
Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion gets to the heart of AB 775’s problem:
[H]ere the State requires primarily pro-life pregnancy centers to promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions. This compels individuals to contradict their most deeply held beliefs, beliefs grounded in basic philosophical, ethical, or religious precepts, or all of these.
Every pregnant woman facing an unplanned pregnancy deserves to know the truth about her options – to be fully informed before making a decision. That includes giving her an opportunity to see her unborn child during an ultrasound. Our experience shows that nearly 80% who do will choose life.
While we can and should celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling, we cannot forget that the threats to life, free speech, and religious liberty in California and our country are still very real. St. Mother Teresa wisely observed that, “the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”
At Obria, no matter how pro-abortion activists will try to portray us, our doctors, nurses, and staff know that coercion is never the answer. But rather, our model of care is built on the foundation of Christ’s love. Love for the mother and love for the child, no matter what.
Clare Venegas is interim executive director of Obria Medical Clinics of Southern California (OMCSoCal.org). She is a wife and mother of three children attending Catholic school.