Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers Under Fire Again
Another state is taking aim at the free speech of pro-life pregnancy care centers. You might remember the NIFLA Supreme Court victory in 2018 against a California law that aimed to compel centers to advertise for abortion providers. Well now a state on the East Coast is holding a sword over such groups based on their “deceptive advertising.” And at least one pro-life ministry is now taking that state to court.
With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, Care Net’s center in New London, Connecticut, filed a federal lawsuit this month against a state law billed by its supporters in the Nutmeg State as a truth-in-advertising statute. But pro-lifers see it as a sword to intimidate and punish them.
The State of Connecticut adopted this law earlier this year purportedly to curtail what its proponents view as misleading information from pregnancy centers “whether by statement or omission.” The statute arms the state with the ability to enforce corrective action and civil financial penalties against such messaging.
The legislation was labelled, “An Act Concerning Deceptive Advertising Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers.” That is a pretty bold title, particularly when you consider that the target — “limited services” centers — are specifically defined by the bill as entities that don’t “directly provide, or provide referrals for, abortions or emergency contraception.”
In other words, the message to pro-lifers is… we mean you. To reigning authorities in Connecticut commitment to abortion is apparently the ultimate standard by which your pregnancy care services will be judged.
While the bill was being considered in Hartford, Mary Szoch of the Family Research Council testified that this legislation was “an attempt to silence Connecticut’s pro-life pregnancy centers, in violation of their First Amendment rights.” She said that unlike numerous truth-in-advertising federal and state statutes that apply generally to all organizations, this bill was different because “it deliberately—and unjustly—singles out pro-life pregnancy centers.”
To emphasize her point, Szoch added:
Nothing in the bill prevents abortion practices from engaging in deceptive advertising practices. For example, Planned Parenthood—whose very name implies that a pregnant woman visiting the clinic will receive balanced information regarding the resources available to her if she would like to parent—is not obligated in any way to clarify in their advertising that their core mission is expanding abortion. Pro-life pregnancy centers are targeted for one reason only—to stifle their speech.
That understanding makes it all the more worrisome when Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, whose office is now empowered to act against pro-life centers, praised the bill. Tong, a “champion” in the eyes of Planned Parenthood, said, “Pregnant women seeking information about their reproductive health choices deserve accurate, timely answers…. my office is prepared to use its authority under this law to protect the rights and health of women.”
Notably, ADF’s lawsuit on behalf of Care Net highlights that Tong had previously given examples of what deceptive advertising might include. “Tong answered that the statement, ‘Are you pregnant? Need help with your pregnancy? Do you want abortion-related counseling?’ is a ‘pretty clear’ example,” the ADF’s formal complaint says. The filing also suggests Tong took aim at white coats worn by pregnancy center staff, even though, as ADF explains, Care Net and other pregnancy centers do in fact employ medical professionals and provide health services.
After filing the case, ADF attorney Denise Harle said, “This law allows the state attorney general to decide if he likes what you’re saying, and if he doesn’t, you must ‘correct’ it or be punished.”
She added, “The Supreme Court has made it clear that the government can’t target certain messages because it doesn’t like a particular viewpoint. Care Net should have the freedom to continue serving women in southeastern Connecticut without government censorship.”
Will you pray for this new case attempting to defend pro-life pregnancy centers from yet another attack by allies of the abortion industry?
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