by Fr. Mark Hodges, reporter
In an absolute no-brainer last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) said the government cannot force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortions.
With Justice Anthony Kennedy retiring and President Donald Trump promising to replace him with a “Scalia-like” justice – a reference to beloved Justice Anthony Scalia – these conservative wins will soon become more and more common.
After all, who can possibly argue that a state can criminalize a religious organization devoted to helping women NOT abort their child unless they advertise state baby killing?
Almost half the nation’s highest justices, that’s who. By a razor-thin 5-4 vote, Free Speech and Religious Liberty was barely upheld by SCOTUS. Trump nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote.
The nearly split decision predicts Liberty’s destruction or its vindication, all depending on the president’s next Supreme Court pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The California “Bully Bill” in question demanded that pro-life organizations put up in a “conspicuous” place a billboard publicizing free abortions. It even specifies how big the words have to be on the “Get An Abortion Free!” poster.
In the understatement of the decade, Justice Clarence Thomas concluded the law “likely … violates the First Amendment.”
Denise Harle of the Alliance Defending Freedom explained the California law mandates unconstitutional “compelled speech.”
“It is unjust for the government to force anyone to speak a message they disagree with — and to punish them if they don’t,” Harle said.
Justice Anthony Kennedy saw the case as a clear issue of religious freedom. He called the California law a “serious threat” by the government against “individual speech, thought, and expression.”
Christian clinics are being “targeted because of their beliefs,” the soon-retiring justice continued. “Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties.”
Thomas added that California lawmakers are trying “to suppress” pro-life ideas. “Throughout history, governments have ‘manipulated the content of doctor-patient discourse’ to increase state power and suppress minorities,” he wrote.
“The people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail,” Thomas cautioned.
“States like California have lost respect for … the individual freedom of the mind,” David French of The National Review concluded, referring to California’s 1849 Declaration of Rights. “The state can rent billboard space on the very streets where crisis-pregnancy centers are located. It can hand out leaflets on the sidewalk. It can advertise on television and the radio. It can advertise on the Internet or social media. But … it is co-opting the voices of its pro-life citizens, forcing them to join its pro-abortion crusade.”
Now the case goes back to the infamously liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals –which upheld the California anti-life ordinance– for “reconsideration.”
The narrow margin of victory should be disconcerting to freedom-loving Americans. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro warned the squeeker vote “bodes ill for the future of free speech… This should have been an easy case.”
“Four justices of the Supreme Court voted for forcing pro-abortion speech by pro-life pregnancy centers,” Catholic Vote pointed out. “The Supreme Court matters, folks. Elections matter. Voting matters.”
Pro-life centers were represented by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), founded 25 years ago by Thomas Glessner to give medical training and legal aid to pro-life organizations. “Pro-life pregnancy resource centers face ferocious attacks by the abortion industry every day,” Glessner explained.
Indeed. California’s anti-life law was plainly designed to stop Christian charities that help women through crisis pregnancies, with huge fines of $500 – $1,000 for every time they don’t post abortion ads.
Fines like that quickly close shoe-string budget charities trying to help women for free. Glessner rightly noted that it’s “scandalous that the law allows a multimillion-dollar abortion industry to bully small non-profits.”
“Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion politicians in California manufactured this law specifically to target pro-life pregnancy centers,” Lila Rose of Live Action charged. It, and similar laws like it in Hawaii and Illinois, “show the illegal lengths the abortion industry and its political allies are willing to go to suppress the pro-life viewpoint and promote the killing of children in the womb.”
Pro-life pregnancy centers help women, supporters say. Volunteers give practical support, including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, prenatal vitamins, maternity outfits, and information on what is going on inside the mother’s womb.
And the help doesn’t stop when the baby is born. Pregnancy centers give parenting classes, job and childcare help, education on budgeting, baby clothes, blankets, toys, diapers, car seats, strollers and cribs. All without charging a cent.
But the number one need that pro-life workers offer is personal support and genuine caring. Young newly-pregnant women are under tremendous stress, and can decide to abort out of fear. Often abandoned by boyfriends, they feel alone. Christian pregnancy centers encourage and give hope for the future. Pro-lifers love both the child and his mother.
As the Catholic Association’s Andrea Picciotti-Bayer put it, “When walking through the doors of a pregnancy center, women find the kind of care and attention that reinforces their dignity as women and helps them prepare to become mothers.”
President Donald Trump praised such centers at NIFLA’s 25th anniversary gala. “Your efforts have helped strengthen the culture of life and love in our communities,” he said.
With Justice Kennedy’s retirement, the Supreme Court will gain a pro-life majority –it’s first in fifty years. Even liberals admit that if Trump nominates a constitutional originalist, the court may overturn the controversial Roe v Wade.
One of Trump’s campaign promises was to nominate pro-life judges, who will eventually overturn abortion-on-demand throughout pregnancy. When that happens, gestational limits or abortion regulations — even the legality of abortion itself — will be up to individual states.
“This is the moment conservative women have been waiting for,” Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance said. “Judicial activist(s) have … forced liberal political policies on the country … This is the reason why they voted overwhelmingly for Donald J. Trump over Hillary Clinton.”
It’s finally here. The wins for life — and for common sense — are just around the corner.
— Father Mark Hodges is a reporter for The Horn News.