Hawaii pro-life centers sue over abortion notice
WAIPO, Hawaii (BP) -- Pro-life pregnancy resource centers in Hawaii have filed suit against a new law requiring them to point women toward abortion access.
A Place for Women in Waipo, run by Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor, and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which has five affiliates in Hawaii, filed suit July 19 with help from the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Pregnancy centers must post signs on letter-sized paper in at least 22-point font or give each woman a notice in person when she checks in stating that:
"Hawaii has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, including, but not limited to, all FDA-approved methods of contraception and pregnancy-related services for eligible women. To apply online for medical insurance coverage that will cover the full range of family planning and prenatal care services, go to mybenefits.hawaii.gov. Only ultrasounds performed by qualified healthcare professionals and read by licensed clinicians should be considered medically accurate."
In testimony before state lawmakers, Planned Parenthood officials claimed that pro-life pregnancy centers give biased, misleading and false information to women who seek their help.
The suit by Place for Women and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates states that the law violates the First Amendment by coercing pro-life centers "to engage in government-mandated speech."
In a video posted to Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor's Vimeo site, pastor Derald Skinner stands in front of shelves full of diapers, baby clothes, bottles and pregnancy information pamphlets. The law amounts to church persecution, he said.
"Our particular pro-life center is in our church," Skinner noted. "So it's very important to realize that they are dictating to us what we can and cannot say. Will they give me my sermon next and tell me what I can preach?"
Pregnancy centers that violate the law must pay up to $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. The suit notes pregnancy centers are nonprofit organizations that offer free services and operate on limited budgets. Neither organization plans to comply.
Opponents of the law said it gives pro-life centers three "untenable" options: comply and violate their religious beliefs; face penalties or civil lawsuits for not complying; or stop operation entirely.
The law doesn't apply to hospitals or other "comprehensive" organizations but only to "limited service pregnancy centers" defined as those that provide pregnancy tests, pregnancy options counseling, ultrasounds, prenatal care, reproductive health counseling, and collect health information from clients.
Similar laws around the country have faced varied outcomes in court. Pro-life centers have won against laws requiring a government-mandated message in Maryland, Illinois, Austin, Texas and New York City.
But in California, pregnancy centers must tell women where they can get an abortion. Alliance Defending Freedom also represents the National Institute of Family and Life's suit against the California law and has requested a Supreme Court review.
"Americans should always have the freedom to think and speak without fear of unjust government punishment. Freedom of speech also means the freedom to not express views that would violate one's conscience," attorney Elissa Graves of Alliance Defending Freedom said. "Because of the First Amendment's protections, courts have repeatedly rejected these types of laws as unconstitutional."