UPDATE, November 2, 10:46 a.m.: A judge this week struck down a law requiring anti-choice fake clinics to tell patients about facilities that provide a full range of reproductive services. The judge’s ruling bars enforcement of the state law against one fake clinic, SFGate.com reports. A statewide ruling is expected to follow as California Attorney General Xavier Becerra defends the law.
A federal appellate panel on Friday delivered a blow to California’s crisis pregnancy centers, or fake clinics, ruling that the anti-abortion clinics must comply with the state’s reproductive transparency law.
The three-person panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected an appeal from two fake clinics and the anti-choice group known as the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA). The appellate panel’s decision affirmed a lower court decision rejecting a request for a preliminary injunction.
Last year, religiously run clinics and NIFLA sued to block the state law before it was enacted. The law, which took effect January 1, requires the state’s licensed pregnancy-related centers to display a brief statement with a number to call for access to free and low-cost birth control and abortion care. Unlicensed centers must disclose that they are not medical facilities.
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In a 40-page decision handed down Friday, the appellate panel wrote that the state Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act is a neutral law and that the appellants were “unable to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of their First Amendment claims.”
Attorneys for the fake clinics had argued the law violates their clients’ First Amendment rights to free speech and to free exercise of religion.
“Forcing these centers to promote abortion and recite the government’s preferred views is a clear violation of their constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms,” Matt Bowman, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, who argued for the anti-choice groups, said in a statement after the appellate decision. He said his clients would discuss the possibility of an appeal.
Another appeal by a group of fake clinics was still pending before the Ninth Circuit as of early Friday.