The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday tackles a dispute over whether a California law requiring Christian-based facilities that counsel pregnant women against abortion to post signs disclosing the availability of state-subsidized abortions and birth control violates their right to free speech.
The nine justices are set to hear an hour of arguments in an appeal by a group of non-profit facilities called crisis pregnancy centers of a lower court ruling upholding the Democratic-backed 2015 law.
The case represents a crossroads of two contentious issues: abortion and the breadth of the right to freedom of speech under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. The Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, and the wider issue of abortion rights is not at issue in the case.
Crisis pregnancy centers say they offer legitimate health services but that it is their mission to steer women with unplanned pregnancies away from abortion. They accuse California of forcing them to advertise for abortion even though they oppose it.
California says some crisis pregnancy centers mislead women by presenting themselves as full-service reproductive healthcare facilities and the law helps ensure these clients are made aware of abortion services available elsewhere.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in 2016 after it was challenged by some of these facilities, finding the statute did not discriminate based on viewpoint.
California’s Reproductive FACT Act, passed by a Democratic-led legislature and signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, requires centers licensed as family planning facilities to post or distribute notices that the state has programs offering free or low-cost birth control and abortion services. The law requires unlicensed facilities with no medical provider on staff to disclose that fact.
Abortion rights advocates say the roughly 2,700 U.S. anti-abortion pregnancy centers, including around 200 in California, far outnumber facilities providing abortions.
The California challengers are the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, an umbrella group for crisis pregnancy centers, and two such facilities in San Diego County. The plaintiffs had told the lower courts that they would not comply with the law.
A win for them could make it harder for Democratic-governed states to impose rules on crisis pregnancy centers, but also could help abortion rights advocates challenge laws in Republican-governed states that impose certain requirements on abortion clinics.
California said its law does not force crisis pregnancy centers to refer women for abortions, nor does it prevent them from voicing their views on abortion. The state told the justices in legal papers that some centers use incomplete or false medical advice to try to prevent women from having an abortion. Some resemble medical clinics, down to lab coats worn by staff, to try to confuse women into thinking they are at a center offering all options, the state added.
The facilities deny using deceptive tactics.
A ruling is due by the end of June.
Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham
GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy fumes at reporter for asking if he still believes Trump was paid by Putin
House majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Thursday was asked about his previous comments suggesting that Donald Trump was on Vladimir Putin’s payroll.
"In 2016, you said then-candidate Trump was one of two people who are paid by Putin, the other being former Congressman Dana Rohrabacher," said Breakfast Media correspondent Andrew Feinberg. "Do you still believe that?"
"It was a joke. That's embarrassing that you would even ask that," McCarthy quickly shot back.
A censure compromise is the GOP’s best option – but Trump is making it impossible: conservative columnist
In an op-ed for the conservative outlet The Bulwark, Benjamin Parker argues that when it comes to censure as a "compromise" to impeachment, that potential compromise is a model that President Trump himself has taken off the table.
Just like during the Bill Clinton era, party members leading the impeachment effort know that they won't get the Senate votes to convict. "The censure compromise was an effort by the president’s defenders to end the impeachment process early. It failed in 1998 because Republicans were determined to demonstrate their fidelity to the rule of law and to enforce a high standard of conduct for public officials," Parker writes, adding that Democrats today find themselves in a similar position. "At this point, Trump’s defenders should be suggesting a censure measure as a possible compromise just as Democrats did in 1998. ... Even if a compromise on censure appears unreachable, the Republicans should make the offer on the off chance that it works."
Fresno Bee burns Nunes to the ground in scathing editorial
The editorial board of the Fresno Bee has written a scathing takedown of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) for his extraordinary fealty to President Donald Trump, which the editors say is harming the country.
Specifically, the editorial accuses Nunes of forsaking his oath of office as a congressman to serve as Trump's most loyal toady on the House Intelligence Committee.
"As has been true for nearly all of Trump’s first term, Nunes has relinquished his proper role as an independent representative of Congress and has instead acted like a member of the Trump 2020 re-election team," the editorial states.