U.S. top court to hear fight over California pregnancy centre law

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The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether California can force pregnancy clinics to discuss abortion options with patients.

That ruling said the law does not discriminate against religious-based groups, nor does it interfere with free speech rights.

"Information about abortion is just about everywhere, so the government doesn't need to punish pro-life centers for declining to advertise for the very act they can't promote", Theriot said in a statement.

California is defending the Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency) Act, passed in 2015.

The 2018 ruling on NIFLA v. Becerra will apply to the other three suits challenging California's FACT Act.

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"Information is power, and all women should have access to the information they need when making personal healthcare decisions", Becerra said.

The justices said Monday they will hear an appeal from centers that complained that a new state law forces them to provide information about abortion and other services. These facilities, according to critics, often are located near hospitals and abortion clinics, offer ultrasounds and are staffed by people wearing medical garb.

The state law requires the centers to post notices that free or low-cost abortion, contraception, and prenatal care are available to low-income women through public programs, and to provide the phone number for more information. Unlicensed centers also must inform clients of their status.

The pro-life centers asked the Supreme Court to hear their case after the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against them a year ago. That's the question the Supreme Court is taking on, in a new case it accepted on Monday.

"The state should protect freedom of speech and freedom from coerced speech", said Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who is representing National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA).

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This marks the first time the Supreme Court has agreed to hear an abortion-related case during the Trump Administration.

A few years ago, NARAL Pro-Choice America lobbied Google and Yahoo to take down "deceptive" pregnancy center ads that appeared at the top of search results for abortion.

"California has a substantial interest in the health of its citizens, including ensuring that its citizens have access to and adequate information about constitutionally protected medical services like abortion", Judge Dorothy W. Nelson wrote for the panel in upholding the requirement that licensed clinics post a notice about abortion. He clarified that the Supreme Court only granted certiorari to review the plaintiff's Free Speech Clause argument.

He and others challenged the law on free speech grounds, saying that the government may not bar apparel that merely conveyed a philosophy rather than an endorsement of a particular candidate, party, or ballot measure.

The court could also resolve a challenge to Republican-drawn electoral districts in Wisconsin on free speech lines.

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