SCOTUS sides with faith-based pregnancy centers

The Supreme Court sides with faith-based pregnancy centers in California in a case that pits abortion rights against free speech.

Posted: Jun 27, 2018 12:27 AM
Updated: Jun 27, 2018 12:27 AM

In every state in America, a network has been quietly building women's health centers. Many look like Planned Parenthood centers, have exact replicas of waiting and exam rooms and are located within blocks of legitimate reproductive health clinics.

The mission of these centers? In their words, "capture" pregnant women before they visit a reproductive health clinic that provides a full range of services, including abortion.

Today, the Supreme Court threw the doors wide open for them to continue this practice.

In NIFLA v. Becerra, the court overturned a basic California consumer protection law, the Reproductive FACT Act, that requires these centers to post a notice on whether they are medically licensed, as well as of the existence of reproductive care options in the state. By ruling that this law somehow "imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech," conservative justices effectively allow the anti-choice movement to continue to deceive women searching for medical information about all of their reproductive health options.

Networks of these health centers, disguised in name as "crisis pregnancy centers," prey on women at vulnerable times in their lives by lying about their options and using outright falsehoods to push political agendas. For example, some centers tell patients abortion is linked with health risks such as infertility, breast cancer and birth defects in future pregnancies, even though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has debunked these medical inaccuracies. Some perform invasive, vaginal ultrasounds without a medical purpose, solely to manipulate women.

And at oral arguments back in March, these centers didn't even try to dispute their deceptive tactics. Yet the Supreme Court just let them off the hook for their dangerous and predatory tactics that harm women and their families every day in every state across our country.

Notably, today's ruling was decided by one vote. One vote was the difference between ending the lies at these women's health centers and allowing pregnant women and their families access to comprehensive information. Unsurprisingly, Neil Gorsuch, Trump's justice who was hand-picked by his anti-abortion allies, voted with the majority.

But this decision shouldn't be viewed in a vacuum. It's part of a trend of restrictive decisions since Gorsuch joined the court. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court reversed decades of labor law and allowed employers to require their employees to resolve work-related disputes through forced individual arbitration, including survivors of workplace sexual harassment and assault. This spring, the court also refused to take up a challenge to an Arkansas law that effectively bans medication for abortions, a regulation with no basis in science and no countervailing health benefit for women.

And with Trump appointing and Congress confirming a record number of conservative judges, this trend is likely to continue. Of course, this is exactly what the anti-choice movement and its political allies want -- conservative judges at every level of the federal court system, handing down anti-choice judgments.

An Ohio Right to Life promotional video admits their true goals: "When we look at the overall strategy of ending abortion, not just in Ohio but nationwide, we have to have a strong federal strategy, a very strong state strategy, and then a local strategy to support our pregnancy centers." Unsurprisingly, then, in state after state -- Iowa, Louisiana, and Mississippi -- anti-choice politicians are passing radical and unconstitutional abortion bans because they are counting on Trump's judges -- and a Trump Supreme Court -- to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But our power as a movement for gender equality also continues to grow. A record-breaking number of women are running for office, the #MeToo movement has forced a national reckoning on sexual harassment and assault, and after 35 years of legislative inaction, Illinois approved the Equal Rights Amendment, putting the country one state away from ratification.

On Roe's 45th anniversary, the landmark decision is at greater risk than ever before. And with Trump eager to fill another Supreme Court spot, many of our other most cherished rights are one vote away from falling. But we will fight each judicial appointment. We will fight every anti-woman piece of legislation in Congress and in state legislatures. And if our representatives don't stand up for our constitutional right to choose, we will elect new ones this November.

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