The state of California will soon require places such as crisis pregnancy centers to place on their walls a piece of paper that contains a very specific notice. The places required to post these notices include centers supported and funded by various religious organizations whose goal is to provide free or low-cost services to pregnant women seeking help and guidance. And, based on the tenets of these various religions, workers encourage the women to not have abortions.
The centers provide women with sought-after services including counseling, pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, etc. The centers do not hide the fact that they are supported and tied to religious organizations. Sometimes the families of pregnant women may strongly encourage the women to at least go speak to someone at the centers, but the centers do not force any information or services upon the women.
The mandated notice reads as follows:
California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number].
If the center is not a licensed medical clinic, the sign would state:
This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.
The new notice requirement is mandated by the state’s Reproductive FACT Act and the goal is to make clear that in California, abortion is legally available.
Obviously groups on both sides of this issue feel very strongly about the legality of requiring a private organization with religious ties to post such a notice.
Supporters of the legislation include several medical and health groups, including the California Nurses Association, the Primary Care Association and the regional district of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
A staunch supporter of the bill callously stated that, “It’s like a ‘Wash Your Hands’ sign on the wall.”
Opponents of the legislation could not disagree more and in fact, several pregnancy centers are suing California, asking the state’s federal courts to strike down the law.
According to Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute, the notice requirement is “like telling the Alcoholics Anonymous group that they have to have a large sign saying where people can get alcohol and booze for free. It’s like telling a Jewish synagogue that they can have their service, and do their thing, but they have to have a large sign where people can go to pray to receive Jesus.”
And, with respect to the lawsuit, Dacus says that his group will take the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary in order to stop the law. To him, the legal battle is “all about upholding the right to religious freedom.”
Kristin Ford, representing the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, says, “We will vigorously defend the state law in court.”