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By Lucette Moramarco
Associate Editor 

SCOTUS decision favors FPRC

 

Last updated 8/6/2018 at 5:16pm

One of the many young women helped at Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center is Jessica Helling, left, who is with sons Oliver and Milo and FPRC executive director Carolyn Koole. Although no longer in FPRC programs, Helling volunteers at fundraisers for the center.

While the June 26 Supreme Court of the United States decision in the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra case favored pro-life pregnancy care centers, Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center is not celebrating yet.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organization which helped represent NIFLA and two pregnancy centers, "the next step is for the attorneys to advise the trial court on how to proceed given the Supreme Court's opinion indicating the law is unconstitutional."

The syllabus of the case provided by the Supreme Court Reporter of Decisions reads, "The California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act (FACT Act) was enacted to regulate crisis pregnancy centers – pro-life centers that offer pregnancy-related services. The FACT Act requires clinics that primarily serve pregnant women to provide certain notices. Clinics that are licensed must notify women that California provides free or low-cost services, including abortions, and give them a phone number to call. Its stated purpose is to make sure that state residents know their rights and what health care services are available to them. Unlicensed clinics must notify women that California has not licensed the clinics to provide medical services. Its stated purpose is to ensure that pregnant women know when they are receiving health care from licensed professionals.

Two crisis pregnancy centers, one licensed and one unlicensed [including FPRC], and an organization of crisis pregnancy centers, filed suit, alleging that both the licensed and the unlicensed notices abridge the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment. Their motion for a preliminary injunction was denied in District Court; the denial affirmed by the Ninth Circuit."

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, Nov. 13, 2017, and did so on March 20, 2018.

A statement released after the decision by NIFLA reads as follows: In a pivotal free speech decision issued (June 26), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against government-compelled speech in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. The ruling strikes down a California law that forced pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry and affirmed that the government can't force Americans to express messages with which they disagree.

"No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion," said ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris, who argued on behalf of NIFLA before the Supreme Court in March. "In this case, the government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion. The Supreme Court said that the government can't do that, and that it must respect pro-life beliefs.

"Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a diverse society like ours," Farris added. "They enable us to coexist peacefully with one another. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to others."

On behalf of the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that "the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail....This Court's precedents are deeply skeptical of laws that 'distinguis[h] among different speakers, allowing speech by some but not others.'"

Carolyn Koole, executive director of FPRC, said, "Pro-life pregnancy centers like Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center (FPRC) are gifts to their communities. Each center provides free services, practical resources donated by the community, information, and emotional support to women – no matter what choices they make. We offer a platform for them to discover their options; parenting, adoption or abortion. Once they leave our door we want them to be equipped to make an informed decision, on their own. They alone can make it because it impacts them the rest of their lives, as it does the child they carry.

"It was important for FPRC to be a plaintiff in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) case," continued Koole. "We needed to take a stand for free speech and against speech compelled by the State. Both components of the case impact FPRC. Though currently a non-licensed center we are in the application process to be a medically licensed clinic allowing us to better serve the women who come to us. Our new building located at 125 E Hawthorne in Fallbrook is being remodeled to expand pregnancy services and to include a clinic that meets medical standards."

As FPRC's executive director, Koole, along with her husband Dr. Rick Koole, Pastor of LifePointe Fallbrook, were present at the SCOTUS hearing in Washington D.C. on March 20. Of the SCOTUS decision ruling in their favor, Koole said, "We will be ever thankful to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris for so ably representing us, and for the entire staff of ADF and NIFLA who together became our voice to defend free speech."

As for what the SCOTUS ruling mean to FPRC, other pregnancy centers and other organizations whose free speech might be at risk, she said, "We know that what happens in California eventually impacts the rest the of the county. The state of California manufactured this law specifically to target pro-life pregnancy centers because it dislikes our views. We would not wish this experience on any person or organization, even those who oppose us. The Supreme Court was right to turn back the state of California's law forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to point the way to abortion.

Koole continued, "The court's decision makes clear that the government must respect pro-life beliefs. No targeting of views – no one should be targeted by the government for peacefully living out their beliefs."

The projected date for the center to move into its newly renovated building is Sept. 17. The center's current location at LifePointe Church will be closed beginning Sept. 10 so the staff and volunteers can pack and prepare to move the following week.

 

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