State judge rules pregnancy centers don’t have to tell women about free abortion services
Pro-life pregnancy care centers in Los Angeles will not be forced to promote abortion after a state trial judge last week halted enforcement of California’s Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gloria Trask issued a permanent injunction against the 2015 law that required pregnancy care centers to post signs or distribute literature telling women the state offers free or low-cost contraception and abortions. The law also required pro-life centers to give women a local abortion provider’s phone number.
“The FACT Act compels speech, and regulates content,” Trask said in her ruling. “This speech is not merely the transmittal of neutral information, such as the calorie count of a food product, or the octane of gasoline purchased at a pump.”
Trask noted that while the California government may support access to abortion, “its ability to impress free citizens into state services in this political dispute cannot be absolute; it must be limited.” She ruled the law violates California’s constitutional protections for free speech.
While so far only enforced in Los Angeles, the FACT Act prompted lawsuits from multiple pro-life organizations on behalf of pregnancy care centers throughout the state. They said the mandated pro-abortion statement amounted to government-coerced speech and violated their religious liberty.
Scott Scharpen, founder of The Scharpen Foundation, told me the law went “profoundly against” the mission and purpose of the group’s mobile clinic, Go Mobile for Life. His organization filed suit against then–Attorney General Kamala Harris in November 2015 and won the favorable ruling from Trask on Oct. 30.
Scharpen said members of his organization were “overjoyed” at Trask’s verdict and are prepared to pursue the case through an expected appeal by current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra: “It’s our hope that as we continue to litigate this through the state court system that other judges will look on it in a similar way.”