On the heels of its controversial law legalizing abortion through birth, the state of New York is now advancing a measure that would discriminate against pro-life pregnancy help centers.
Last week, the Senate Women’s Issues Committee approved a bill, S.2264 (Sen. Hoylman), which would force pregnancy centers, “upon first communication or first contact” with prospective clients, to disclose that they do not provide abortion or birth control services or make referrals for such services.
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a pro-life group that opposes the bill, sees the legislation as a way to shut down pregnancy centers and silence pro-life speech. The organization explained at AlbanyUpdate.com:
The bill would allow anyone who believes that a crisis pregnancy center has failed to communicate the mandate disclosure to complain to the State of New York; that complaint, in turn, would trigger an investigation by the New York State Department of Health. Violators would be fined. Our organization sees this legislation as an attempt to tie up pro-life pregnancy centers in court and force these non-profit organizations, which exist on limited donations, to eventually close their doors.
Significantly, the bill’s mandated disclosure is not applicable to “licensed health care providers, hospitals, family planning clinics that provide or refer for abortion and/or contraception, or family planning clinics that receive federal Title X funds.” In other words, pro-life pregnancy centers would be impacted by this proposed law, but Planned Parenthood facilities would not.
Last week, the New York State Catholic Conference released a memorandum of opposition to the bill, describing the forced disclosure as an “impermissible form of coerced speech.” The Conference argued,
The legislation also improperly imposes this message only on certain speakers, and thus is an unconstitutional form of viewpoint-based discrimination. The state would never seek to require any other business to immediately—upon first contact—inform clients of the goods or services they do not provide, either orally or in writing. Yet this is what this onerous and discriminatory bill would require for pro-life centers. The unconstitutionality of this bill is clear in light of the 2018 Supreme Court decision in NIFLA v. Becerra.
Last summer, in NIFLA, the Supreme Court struck down a 2015 California state law that forced pro-life medical clinics to promote abortion by posting abortion advertisements on their websites and waiting room walls.
According to New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms:
The Court found that California law unconstitutional, noting that content-based restrictions on free speech “‘are presumptively unconstitutional and may be justified only if the government proves that they are narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests.’” NIFLA v. Becerra, 585 U.S. ____, ____ (2018) (slip op. at 6) (citations omitted). The Court added that its “precedents are deeply skeptical of laws that ‘distinguis[h] among different speakers…’” Id. (slip op. at 19). By targeting only crisis pregnancy centers and excluding four other categories of organizations from its mandated disclosures, distinguishing among different speakers is exactly what Bill S.2264-Hoylman/A.2352-Glick would do. The New York State Legislature should learn from the State of California’s mistake and refrain from passing this bill.
With pro-abortion politicians advancing extreme legislation like New York’s Reproductive Health Act across the country, pregnancy help centers have become all the more important to ensuring that women have a supportive alternative that will help them carry their babies to term.
“Since New York State’s abortion rate is almost twice the national average, it is clear that pregnant women here are not confronting difficulties in obtaining pregnancy terminations,” said the New York State Catholic Conference. “Anyone who believes in ‘freedom of choice’ should therefore allow pro-life pregnancy centers to carry out their mission of providing other options to women facing unplanned pregnancies.
“Pro-life pregnancy centers provide valuable services, assisting often frightened and vulnerable pregnant women with alternatives to the abortion procedure. This legislation is an attempt to silence these pro-life voices and shut these centers down. It violates the constitutional guarantee of free speech. We urge you to oppose it.”
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