Pregnancy centers in Hawaii with a mission to protect unborn babies were required by state law to promote drugs that could rob these babies of their lives — all for the sake of convenience.
Similar to a law in California, Hawaii required pregnancy centers to remind women that they could kill their unborn children and the government would pay part or all of the cost.
But in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in NIFLA v. Becerra that the California pro-life pregnancy centers would likely succeed on the merits — that the law violated the First Amendment — and sent the case back to lower court.
Writing the majority opinion in the California case, Justice Clarence Thomas contended (PDF) that in ruling against the pregnancy centers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit didn’t apply the correct level of scrutiny for the content-based law. California defended the abortion-promoting law as regulating “professional speech” and applied a lower level of scrutiny.
“But this Court has never recognized ‘professional speech’ as a separate category of speech subject to different rules,” Justice Thomas wrote. “Speech is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by professionals.”
The 9th Circuit should have applied a strict-scrutiny level of review to determine whether the law was narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest. The California law unconstitutionally altered the pregnancy centers’ speech.
The federal court in Hawaii cited this high court decision and struck down that state’s law. From Alliance Defending Freedom (emphasis added):
“Hawaii’s law was particularly egregious. Not only did it force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion, it also compelled a church to promote abortion inside its building,” said NIFLA President Thomas Glessner. “The state of Hawaii has acknowledged that its attempt to force pro-life centers and churches to advertise its abortion agenda was unconstitutional. This case constitutes a major victory for free speech and freedom of religion.”
“Hawaii’s pro-life, nonprofit pregnancy centers offer free practical resources, information, and emotional support to women—no matter what choices those women make,” said Derald Skinner, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor and President of “A Place for Women in Waipio.” “We’re grateful that the state has backed off its unconstitutional attack on our ministry. Our doors remain open and we continue to offer love, care, and compassion for all women and their precious little babies in our community.”