Supreme Court rules against Calif. crisis pregnancy center law


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court effectively put an end today to a California law that forces anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion.

The 5-4 ruling also casts doubts on similar laws in Hawaii and Illinois.

The California law took effect in 2016. It requires centers that are licensed by the state to tell clients about the availability of contraception, abortion and pre-natal care, at little or no cost. Centers that are unlicensed were required to post a sign that said so. The court struck down that portion of the law.

The centers said they were singled out and forced to deliver a message with which they disagreed. California said the law was needed to let poor women know all their options.

Justice Clarence Thomas in his majority opinion said the centers "are likely to succeed" in their constitutional challenge to the portion of the law involving licensed centers. That means that while the law is currently in effect, its challengers can go back to court to get an order halting its enforcement. An attorney for the challengers said today they expect to be able to do that quickly.

"California cannot co-opt the licensed facilities to deliver its message for it," Justice Thomas wrote for himself and his conservative colleagues, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. He called the requirement for unlicensed centers "unjustified and unduly burdensome."

Justice Stephen Breyer said among the reasons the law should be upheld is the high court has previously upheld state laws requiring doctors to tell women seeking abortions about adoption services. "After all, the law must be evenhanded," Justice Breyer said in a dissenting opinion joined by his liberal colleagues, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and anti-abortion groups were among those cheering the decision. The Trump administration had argued California's law violates the rights of licensed centers but had no objection to the requirement for the unlicensed centers. "Speakers should not be forced by their government to promote a message with which they disagree, and pro-life pregnancy centers in California should not be forced to advertise abortion and undermine the very reason they exist," Sessions said in a statement.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the decision "unfortunate" but said "our work to ensure that Californians receive accurate information about their health care options will continue."

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