On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favour of anti-abortion pregnancy centres — commonly known as crisis pregnancy centres (CPCs) — in California. In a 5-4 decision, SCOTUS determined that a state law requiring CPCs to offer information about abortion likely violates the First Amendment.
Anti-abortion advocates celebrated the decision, calling it a win for the pro-life movement.
"Today is a victory for more than just the dedicated volunteers who staff pregnancy care centers," Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, said in a statement. "It is also a victory for the thousands of women who go to the centers seeking life-affirming care and support."
National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra was a legal challenge to a 2015 California law known as the FACT Act. The legislation was an attempt to regulate crisis pregnancy centres. If the CPC was licensed as medical provider, it had to post signs about California's free or low-cost abortion and family planning services. If the centre was unlicensed (which is fairly common, since many offer primarily “counselling” with no health professionals on staff), they had to disclose they were not a licensed medical provider.
CPCs are typically founded by anti-abortion organisations. The centres are known for counselling women against having an abortion while offering services such as ultrasounds and pregnancy tests, even without having staffers trained as health providers. But some of these organisations have been also found to provide medically inaccurate information to pregnant women in an effort to dissuade them from obtaining an abortion while also engaging in deceptive marketing tactics.
The FACT Act's purpose was to offer some sort-of regulation to these centres. According to California officials, the required signs didn't offer a stance on abortion and centres should tell patients of the services the state offers. But NIFLA, a network of these anti-abortion centres, challenged the legislation shortly after its passage, arguing it violated their right to free speech. The Supreme Court agreed, to the dismay of reproductive rights advocates.
"The deception at fake women’s health centres is real, but five Justices still refused to act on behalf of women who need accurate information to make the best decisions for our families and our lives," NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "Today, the Supreme Court turned its back on women and condoned the deceptive tactics used by fake women’s health centres."