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It’s Happening Again: A City Law Is Forcing a Pro-life Pregnancy Center to Speak Against Its Mission

Caring Families Pregnancy Services has been giving a voice to women facing unplanned pregnancies for over 30 years.

“We know how important it is for our clients to write their own stories,” says the pregnancy center’s website. But while Caring Families works to give its clients a voice, the city of Hartford is trying to take the pregnancy center’s voice away—or at least drown it out. A city law now requires Caring Families to speak misleading messages that undermine its mission.

Does that sound familiar?

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in California. So why is Hartford’s law still around? 

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the details of this case.

Who: Caring Families Pregnancy Services

caringfamiliesbillboard-stmimg-072419Caring Families Pregnancy Services is a private, faith-based, non-profit organization that gives women and families the support they need to choose life.

It offers many important services including free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, options counseling, adoption referrals, parenting classes, Bible studies, and support groups. Caring Families also offers mothers and mothers-to-be important material resources like baby clothes, diapers, cribs, and car seats. In order to reach more women in need, Caring Families even runs a mobile pregnancy center called MobileCare, which makes regularly scheduled visits to Hartford and other communities in Connecticut.

The mission of Caring Families is to bring hope to women who may feel like abortion is their only choice and to empower those women to make life-affirming choices. 

What: Caring Families v. City of Hartford

In 2017, the city of Hartford passed Ordinance No. 25-17—a new law that forces pro-life pregnancy centers to post signs and begin conversations with a city-determined disclaimer. The disclaimer incorrectly implies that the centers are not qualified to provide the free services they offer because there is not a medical provider on site at all times.

If Caring Families does not post this sign, it faces fines of up to $100 each day that it refuses.

This is a lot like the California law the Supreme Court struck down in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra in 2018. That law forced pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions. Just like the California law, Hartford’s law specifically targets pro-life pregnancy centers and forces them to speak a message that hurts their own mission.

“Hartford claims it’s promoting comprehensive information about health care but only censors and interferes with specific views about life, pregnancy, motherhood—a double standard that’s both troubling and unconstitutional,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Legal Counsel Denise Harle

Hartford’s ordinance violates Caring Families’ free speech rights. So, with the help of ADF attorneys, it filed a lawsuit against the city of Hartford, challenging its unconstitutional law.

When: April 2019—present

Caring Families filed its lawsuit challenging the City of Hartford’s ordinance in federal court on April 18, 2019.

Where: Hartford, Connecticut

Caring Families has been serving women and families in Hartford, Connecticut since 1986.

Why: To stand for every person’s right to speak freely

Every American has the right to speak freely. It’s protected by the First Amendment.

We usually think about violations of free speech as censorship—the government preventing someone from saying something. But it can be violated in the other direction too—the government forcing someone to express something against their beliefs.

This is compelled speech. And the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear in its decision in NIFLA v. Becerra that it’s unconstitutional. Because of that decision, the law compelling the speech of pro-life pregnancy centers in California was defeated.

But the law in Hartford, Connecticut still stands – and Connecticut is also considering a similar state-wide law. This is a threat to free speech for all Americans. That’s why Caring Families is taking a stand and challenging the law in federal court.

The Bottom Line

Pregnancy centers should be free to serve women and offer the support they need without fear of unjust government punishment.

Maureen Collins

Web Writer

Maureen has a passion for writing and her work has appeared on The Federalist.

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