Supreme Court’s NIFLA ruling draws praise from pro-life groups

Catholic News Agency

“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions,” said Michael Farris, president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, which argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of NIFLA, a non-profit that provides legal counsel to pro-life pregnancy centers around the country.

“The government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion. The Supreme Court said that the government can’t do that,” Farris said in a statement.

The June 26 ruling in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra involved California’s “Reproductive FACT Act,” which requires pro-life pregnancy centers to display a notice informing patients about California programs that, among other things, can provide a free or low-cost abortion for eligible women, and phone numbers of places to obtain them.

The law also mandates that any non-medical pregnancy center, such as one that distributes free maternity clothing or baby items to a pregnant woman, must display a notice explaining that it is not licensed as a medical facility in the state of California. There is no current licensing scheme in the state of California for non-medical facilities who distribute baby supplies.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court found that the “petitioners are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the FACT Act violates the First Amendment.” It sent the case back to a lower court to be reconsidered, with the understanding that the lower court was incorrect to treat the speech of pregnancy centers as a lesser category of free speech simply because it is “professional speech.”

Anne O’Connor, the vice president of NIFLA, said in a statement that Tuesday’s decision “is not just about whether or not to hand out abortion information on a piece of paper or post it on the walls of our pro-life centers.”

“It is about the right belonging to all American citizens to be free from government-compelled speech, and from being coerced into promoting a message that contradicts their values.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, also offered praise for the Supreme Court’s decision. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was one of several religious groups that had filed a brief in favor of NIFLA.

Dolan said the court had “affirmed that the First Amendment protects the right of all organizations to choose for themselves not only what to say, but what not to say.”

The decision is “an important development in protecting pro-life pregnancy centers from future efforts to compel speech in violation of their deeply held beliefs,” the cardinal said.

NARAL, a group that supports expanded abortion rights around the country, objected to the ruling, posting on Twitter that the Supreme Court had “just ruled that unlicensed fake women’s health centers are free to dress up as doctors & deliberately lie to women” about reproductive health.

NARAL also laid blame on the newest Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch for the decision, saying the “anti-choice extremist” judge “sits in a stolen seat.”

However, March for Life President Jeannie Mancini countered, pregnancy centers serve a “life-affirming mission,” offering support that includes child care, clothing, and diapers.

“Pregnancy care centers in the United States offer collectively over $100 million in resources to women and men facing an unexpected pregnancy. And they operate out of the sheer goodness of their heart, to help these people in difficult scenarios,” she said.

“California has been forcing these centers to advertise for abortion, which goes against the very reason for these centers. We are delighted that the Supreme Court today protected free speech rights and protected the right of pregnancy care centers to be able to provide these wonderful resources.”

Americans United for Life, a group involved in crafting state-level pro-life legislation, said the ruling is a victory for “the thousands of women who go to the centers seeking life-affirming care and support.”

“AUL is encouraged by this ruling, and our legal team will continue to support the excellent work of pregnancy care centers,” the group said in a statement.

The article was originally written by Christine Rousselle at Catholic News Agency and is reprinted here with permission.

COMING UP: Catholic health clinic fights back against defamatory video

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Catholic health clinic fights back against defamatory video

Marisol Health threatens liberal advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado with legal action

Roxanne King

Marisol Health threatened legal action publicly May 23 against ProgressNow Colorado demanding that Marisol’s image and reference be removed from a propaganda video that mischaracterizes the women’s health care and implies it to be a “fake clinic.”

Marisol, which is run by Catholic Charities, held a press conference at its Denver clinic after its attorneys received no response from a May 17 letter giving ProgressNow, an aggressive liberal advocacy group, three days to meet their mandate.

“It’s a clear case of defamation, called libel, and we are prepared with Marisol to take this to the next level if ProgressNow and its affiliates don’t respond to our demand letter,” attorney Michael Norton said at the media event. “As of this moment there has been no response.

“That is not surprising for drive-by organizations like ProgressNow whose political interests outweigh truth. The truth here is that Marisol Health does provide comprehensive health care for women, it is a quality organization and it will do what it needs to do to defend its reputation.”

Norton was joined by Jan McIntosh, vice president of Marisol Services, and Dede Chism, co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care and Family Wellness, which partners with Marisol.

Through its partnership with Bella, Marisol runs clinics in Denver and Lafayette that provide a full range of women’s health care services provided by licensed medical professionals. Marisol’s health care services include comprehensive obstetrics, gynecological and prenatal care, infertility care, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy testing and ultrasounds, and abortion pill reversals.

On staff are three board-certified doctors, four nurse practitioners, a certified nurse midwife and case managers.

Through its partnership with Bella, Marisol runs clinics in Denver and Lafayette that provide a full range of women’s health care services provided by licensed medical professionals. (Photo by Vanessa Chavez | Marisol Health)

“We provide these services to all who come to our door no matter whether they are able to pay or not,” McIntosh said. “In fact 45 percent of our patients have no income or income less than $15,000 per year; 45 percent have Medicaid and 32 percent are uninsured.”

Marisol also offers counseling and social services to its patients who need them, McIntosh said. Those services include mental health and substance abuse treatment, domestic violence intervention, and housing for single expectant mothers, single mothers with children and single women who are experiencing homelessness.

“We are shocked and offended that an organization would use our name to make false statements about our licensed medical staff and seek to deter help for so many women who are often without food, housing, jobs, emotional support and quality medical care,” McIntosh said.

The ProgressNow video titled “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” includes photos of four crisis pregnancy centers in the metro-area, including the Denver Marisol Health clinic, as a woman, identified only as Aubrey, a 40-year-old art teacher, recalls her college experience of being referred to an unidentified clinic when she found herself with an unexpected pregnancy.

Aubrey relates that the pregnancy center lacked medical personnel outside of an ultrasound technician, which concerned her as she had a seizure disorder that could have been fatal to her pregnancy. As the video shifts to city scenes, bold white text over the photos declare: “There are more than 60 crisis pregnancy centers in Colorado; Staff rarely have any medical training; They often lie or refuse to provide accurate information.”

“It’s a clear case of defamation, called libel, and we are prepared with Marisol to take this to the next level if ProgressNow and its affiliates don’t respond to our demand letter,” attorney Michael Norton said at the media event May 23. (Photo by Vanessa Chavez | Marisol Health)

The video is posted to ProgressNow Colorado’s Facebook page. It is also on the No Fake Care website of ProgressNow affiliate, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights. COLOR also put up billboards around Denver that say, “In Your Neighborhood: Fake Health Center” and include the nofakecare.com web address.

The video and billboards are part of a trend by pro-abortion groups to undermine the work of pro-life pregnancy centers. The US Supreme Court is now deciding a case—National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra—to determine whether a California law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to inform women of the availability of abortions elsewhere violates their First Amendment and free speech rights.

“We demand that all video footage of and references to Marisol Health on ProgressNow’s website or Facebook page, including the website or Facebook page of COLOR or any other ProgressNow affiliate, and posted to YouTube, be immediately deleted or redacted from all such websites, Facebook pages or YouTube postings,” Norton wrote in the letter to ProgressNow Colorado.

ProgressNow didn’t respond to requests from the Denver Catholic for comment.

Client response to Marisol Health is proof that its groundbreaking services are valued, Chism said.

“The forging of services between Bella and Marisol brings a new level to health care,” she said at the press conference. “The need for this innovative style, this new style of women’s health care, has been evident in the overwhelming response we have received in the last three and half years … in the caring for over 5,000-plus patients.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misstated what the propaganda video actually said in reference to Marisol Health. It has been updated to more accurately reflect the mischaracterization of Marisol Health by ProgressNow.