By: Kevin Theriot
Posted on: March 19, 2018

Most people agree we don’t want the government telling us what we have to say. So when California started forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for the abortion industry, many fans of free speech were upset – even some who consider themselves “pro-choice.”

The other day, my friendly and inquisitive Lyft driver asked me what I do for a living. My usual, neutral answer, “I’m an attorney,” didn’t satisfy him. He wanted to know the name of my firm, how long I had been practicing law, and what kind of cases I litigate. When I told him I work for Alliance Defending Freedom, which advocates for the right of people to live out their faith, he was very interested and asked me to give him an example of a case.

Executive Director Blayne Wittig, Friends of Options for Women in Concord, CA

He was from California so I thought he would be interested in our challenge to AB775 – the 2015 law that forces licensed pro-life pregnancy centers in California to advise women who come to them for free support (like maternity clothes and strollers) that the State of California offers free or low-cost abortion. It even requires them to give expectant mothers a phone number to a government office which provides them the name and contact information for where they can get a state-funded abortion.

As he was driving 75 miles per hour down the highway, my new friend looked at me in disbelief. “Those centers are getting government money, right? That’s the only way that makes sense,” he said. I assured him they get no government money whatsoever. And they provide all their services for free.

Nevertheless, the State of California requires them to either post a sign or give expectant mothers a form that tells them where they can get a free abortion. “It would be like forcing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to advertise, and give out contact information for, a hunting club,” I explained.

He was shocked. He said that he thinks women should have a choice about whether to have an abortion, but that law is ridiculous. And he is right. Government should not be able to force a charity to advertise, and refer for, the very thing it opposes.

That is why ADF filed a lawsuit challenging the California law. We sued on behalf of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) and two of its California member centers, Pregnancy Care Clinic and Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center. Unfortunately, both the trial court and the court of appeals were not nearly as concerned about free speech as my Lyft driver. They both upheld the law.

The great news is the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear the case on March 20. ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris will explain to the Court why this law strikes at the very heart of our constitutional freedoms. It allows the government to make a religious charity, founded to oppose abortion, advertise where expectant mothers can get one.

We are hopeful the justices will strike the law down because they understand the danger to freedom it poses – just as my Lyft driver did. Whether they are a federal judge or just trying to make a living driving a car, Americans understand the government should not be telling us what we have to say, especially on a controversial issue like abortion.