Illinois Pregnancy Centers Unite to Support California Counterparts

Attorneys with the Thomas More Society filed an amici curiae (friends of the court) brief with the United States Supreme Court on January 11, 2018. The brief was filed on behalf of 23 Illinois pregnancy resource centers in support of a lawsuit filed by the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates against California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for his violation of its members’ First Amendment rights. U.S. Supreme Court

The case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, deals with whether the government can force pro-life pregnancy resource centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. Like their California counterparts, the Illinois centers are being targeted by state efforts to force them to provide pro-abortion information to those who come to them for support.

Thomas Olp, Vice President and Senior Counsel for the Thomas More Society, explained, “These nonprofit, pro-life pregnancy resource centers in Illinois have been targeted by a state law that illegally discriminates against them for their viewpoint, which is a clear violation of their First Amendment rights. The same scenario is playing out in California, under an attorney general who has made a name for himself targeting the undercover journalists who exposed Planned Parenthood’s role in the illegal trafficking of aborted baby body parts.”

Unlike California pregnancy centers, those in Illinois currently have temporary court protection from a law that would force them to make referrals for abortion, even if they have sincerely held religious convictions against doing so. The preliminary injunction order was issued in July 2017 by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Rauner.

“The Illinois district court’s injunction is based on the Supreme Court’s well-established Free Speech principles, which were largely disregarded in the California case,” said Olp. “We urge the high court to protect pro-life pregnancy resource centers from California’s Reproductive FACT Act. This mandate to deliver the government’s pro-abortion message and refer women to abortion vendors is a clear violation of the free speech rights and conscience of pro-life doctors, nurses, and pregnancy help centers. This is both unconstitutional and unethical.”

The amici curiae brief argues that a woman has a right to choose life for her unborn child. Nonprofit pro-life pregnancy resource centers are established to support and assist women by providing life-affirming alternatives to abortion.

“Under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, these centers cannot be required to agree with or be compelled to promote any state’s message concerning abortion,” said Olp. “They have the right to offer charitable services and proclaim an exclusively pro-life message to those in need. Laws like California’s Reproductive FACT Act and the amended Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act deny women their ability to receive free pregnancy support and their right to choose life for their child.”

Like their California counterparts, the 23 pregnancy centers represented by the Thomas More Society work to ensure that women are not burdened by fear, financial pressure, or lack of information about their pregnancy. In 2017, the groups listed in the amici curiae brief cumulatively provided more than 14,000 women with free pregnancy services and support including free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, parenting classes, baby clothes, and other material assistance.

Read the amici curiae brief filed by the Thomas More Society with the United States Supreme Court on January 11, 2018, here.