According to Rewire, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the case challenging a California law that mandates certain disclosures for reproductive health-care facilities. Passed in 2015, the Reproductive Freedom Accountability Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act is, at its core, a truth-in-advertising law—but it has become a proxy for conservatives’ war on reproductive health science.
The law places two different requirements on clinics in the state. Licensed clinics must post a notice that the state provides low-cost contraception and abortion services to those who qualify; unlicensed facilities must disclose that they are unlicensed. But just before the law was set to take effect, attorneys from the conservative litigation mill Alliance Defending Freedom sued on behalf of a group of licensed and unlicensed anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs). They argued the law was not a regulation to protect consumers, but instead an unconstitutional attack on CPC free speech rights—because it forced these businesses to convey a “pro-abortion” message with which they disagree. Both a lower court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and upheld the law. But as oral arguments closed Tuesday, those rulings appeared to be in jeopardy, liquor stores.
Attorney Michael Farris from ADF took to the podium first, telling the justices that California lawmakers “took aim” at CPCs in drafting the FACT Act by making them “point the way” to abortion clinics in the state. This framing—that the law targets CPCs and no one else—is an essential component to ADF’s challenge and one Farris stuck to throughout his time before the Court. It may prove to be a winning strategy. He claimed lawmakers “gerrymandered” the law, drafting what looked to be a neutral regulation but one that was in reality riddled with exceptions that left only CPCs exposed to enforcement.