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While upholding the travel ban, Supreme Court also hands pro-life movement a win


Amber Nikirk and her children Lily and Jeremiah hold pro-life signs on Oct. 1. Pro-life advocates like Nikirk won a major victory in June 2018 when the Supreme Court ruled in their favor in NIFLA v. Becerra  Rose Bythrow Buy Photos

The Decision

The same day, June 26, the United States Supreme Court upheld President Trump's travel ban, the Court also decided another case, and in yet another 5-4 decision, provided pro-life advocates with a massive win in California.

The majority of the justices ruled in the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra case that California can’t force crisis-pregnancy centers to have signs about abortion services, regardless of whether those centers are licensed medical providers or not.

Before the Supreme Court ruling, licensed centers had to post signs or notices informing patients they can get a free or low-cost abortion, as well as the number of a state agency capable of connecting women with abortion providers. 


The NIFLA v. Becerra case started in 2015 when California passed the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency Act. As of Tuesday, the Supreme Court reversed the decision by two lower courts which upheld the FACT Act. 

California lawmakers were confronted by allegations that pregnancy centers were using deceptive practices and not advertising the full range of options available in California. As a result of those allegations, Californian lawmakers enacted the FACT Act. 

Pro-life advocates argued the requirements to provide notices about abortion services, as well as the number of abortion agencies, violated the First Amendment and conflicted with their pro-life message.

The requirements to have extensive disclosures, in as many as 13 languages, about abortion and about the licensing of the center also presented an additional difficulty for centers, something Justice Clarence Thomas bought up in the decision.

"In this way," Thomas wrote, "the unlicensed notice drowns out the facility's own message."

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, D-California, said via Twitter the law was merely a way to provide factual information to women in need of abortion services.

Maggy Krell, chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a statement FACT merely ensures women get accurate information about pregnancy care centers. According to Planned Parenthood, this decision is about accurate information, not about limiting free speech.

"Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California stand with Attorney General Becerra in fighting to uphold this commonsense law," she said in the statement.

Pro-life activist and IU student Monica Richel was one of the advocates in Washington D.C. who waited for the ruling and celebrated when it came back 5-4.

Richel was in D.C. as part of the Pro-life for America conference and she remembers standing out on the streets June 22 and June 25 as she and others waited for the decision. 

That victory, combined with Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, has renewed the energy of pro-life advocates, Richel said. 

"Some pro-choice groups are already nervous," Richel said. "If Trump appoints a Supreme Court judge who is willing to overturn those two cases, women will be able to receive the care they need."

Richel also said there was a concern among pro-choice advocates that pregnancy centers and workers were masquerading as doctors or pretending to be something they were not, but, at least in Bloomington, that isn't the case.

Localizing the case, Richel said there is a full-time ultrasound technician and medically-trained people at the Bloomington Women’s Care Center who are working to erase that stigma around care centers who stand in opposition to pro-choice centers like Planned Parenthood, which is next door to the Women's Care Center in Bloomington.

"If women go to these centers, they are going to get care from real nurses and legitimate doctors," Richel said.

Mike Fichter, President and CEO of Indiana Right to Life, also put out a press release saying he and IRTL were pleased with the result. 

“No one should be forced to promote abortion against their will," Fichter said in the press release. "We’re pleased the Supreme Court recognized the free speech rights of pregnancy resource centers.”

According to NPR, in recent years, the number of centers counseling against abortion has increased with more than 2,700 of them located across the country. That is more than three times the number of clinics which provide abortions.

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