Sanctity of Life

What Government-Compelled Speech Actually Looks Like

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If you came across an ad in a newspaper that looked like this, would you find it odd?

Or if you walked into an office building and the wall looked like the picture below, what would you think?

It reads (in several different languages): “This facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.”

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If you’re anything like me, your thought process might resemble the following:

1. “That looks kind of tacky and weird.” I mean, a bunch of random papers plastered on the wall is something you expect to see in a conspiracy theorist’s basement, not an office building.

2. “What could be so important?” Come on, huge 48-point font and multiple different languages makes it look like there is cause for concern (see point number 1).

3. “Why are you telling me this?” After getting closer and reading the paper that’s in your language, you might think it’s kind of odd that an office would be telling people what they are not. After all, you don’t walk into a health food store expecting the store to advertise the fact that they don’t sell Oreos—that’s just not the way our world works.

So here’s the story behind the pictures.

The State of California has passed a law targeting pro-life pregnancy centers. The law, deceptively named the Reproductive FACT Act, forces these centers to speak a message that directly contradicts their beliefs and mission. 

First, medically licensed pregnancy centers must post signs advertising that the state offers free or low-cost abortions. Not only that, but the signs must also include a phone number where women can call to get referrals for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.

The law also requires non-medically licensed pregnancy centers to post a disclaimer in their centers and their advertising that they are not a medical facility—in up to 13 different languages—and in 48-point font.

So if you walked into a pro-life pregnancy center that offers expectant mothers tangible resources such as parenting classes, emotional support groups, and baby supplies like clothing, diapers, wipes, and blankets, you would be welcomed by the crazy papered wall in the picture. 

And if that same pro-life pregnancy center wanted to advertise its services, it would have to create an ad similar to this mish-mash of languages that have nothing to do with the services the pregnancy center provides.

And for what?

Abortion groups in California are behind the law. Their motivation is to silence the pro-life message. But even if they weren’t—it is unconstitutional for the government to put words into the mouths of its citizens. A nonprofit that exists solely to advance the pro-life message should never be forced to contradict that message under the threat of government punishment.

And the threatened punishment is no laughing matter. If a pregnancy center refused to post signs like you see in the picture they’d face a $500 fine. And for every offense after that, the fine is $1,000.

How long do you think these nonprofits would exist if they regularly received fines like that?

And who would suffer? Women who want to choose life for their children but are overwhelmed by a society that shoves the pro-abortion message down their throats.

Alliance Defending Freedom stood before the United States Supreme Court on March 20 to argue on behalf of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) and its affiliated pregnancy centers in California. We asked the Supreme Court to protect freedom of speech—not just for these pregnancy centers, but for anyone who would be forced by the government to speak a message that contradicts their sincerely held beliefs.

This California law is government-compelled speech at its ugliest. And I’m not just talking about the pictures.

Marissa Mayer

Senior Web Writer

Marissa Mayer is an Arizona native who fell in love with the written word at a young age.

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