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Anti-choice extremists might be in real trouble at the Supreme Court

Anti-choice advocates think they’ve found the perfect Supreme Court case to help them push their dangerous and incorrect views about abortion. But they could be wildly wrong.

By Lisa Needham - March 20, 2018
Reproductive rights supporters

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court is hearing a case that could have significant implications for abortion and reproductive health rights.

That case is NIFLA v. Becerra. NIFLA, which stands for “National Institute of Family and Life Advocates,” is committed to wiping out abortion in America. With this particular case, however, the group might have gotten more than it bargained for.

In 2016, NIFLA sued California over the state’s passage of the Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act (Reproductive FACT Act). The Reproductive FACT Act requires crisis pregnancy centers — which pass themselves off as reproductive health clinics to lure people away from obtaining an abortion — to provide two types of disclosures.

First, if those facilities aren’t actually licensed medical providers of some sort, they have to say so. If they are licensed to perform some services, like administering pregnancy tests or ultrasounds, they have to put up notices that tell people free or low-cost abortions are available and provide the number of the state agency that will help connect those patients to abortion providers.

In other words, California’s law seeks to prevent anti-abortion organizations from lying to people about their health care options so patients in need can get the care and information they need.

NIFLA believes that having to post those disclosures is a violation of its free speech rights — that it compels the organization to say something it doesn’t believe. That’s particularly absurd given that both disclosures are mere statements of fact. A place either is or isn’t a licensed medical provider, and California does provide abortion resources.

What those “clinics” are really mad about is that the law would curtail the ability to lure people in and lie to them.

As it stands now, these fake clinics feel perfectly comfortable engaging in outright deception for the purpose of discouraging them from having abortions.

“When I went to a fake clinic at 17, they told me ‘abortion is against our law.’ It might be against what they believe but it wasn’t against the law. But that’s what they told me,” Lizz Winstead, founder of Lady Parts Justice, told Shareblue Media.

Winstead’s organization brings attention to the danger of these fake “clinics,” to ensure that patients know the truth about the care they won’t receive. It’s part of a coalition dedicated to informing patients about which local clinics provide real care and which ones don’t.

The same thing happened to Bethany Van Kampen, a senior policy analyst at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. She also spoke with Shareblue Media about why she’s closely following the case.

When she was 19, she sought out Planned Parenthood because she needed Plan B, the “morning after pill.” But what she got was a crisis pregnancy center that refused to give her the drug, telling her it was “dangerous.” The center even told her she probably wasn’t pregnant. Except she was, and a month later she was fortunately able to have an abortion.

Anti-choicers may be overreaching with this lawsuit, and that could be a good thing for reproductive health. Why? Because they’ve forced doctors and abortion providers to engage in speech they don’t believe in for years now.

At least 29 states force abortion providers to provide brochures about things like the so-called risks of abortion and the stages of fetal development.

Of course, abortions are very low-risk and certainly don’t increase the risk of breast cancer. But several states — including Arkansas, Kansas, and Mississippi — force abortion providers to inform their patients of the non-existent risk.

There’s no reason, save for naked conservative politicking, why forcing an abortion provider to pass along anti-choice messages is fine but asking a fake clinic to simply inform people of what they really are — not a medical clinic, not a place to get abortions — isn’t.

Because of that, this case might just be a win-win for reproductive health. The court could invalidate California’s act, saying it unconstitutionally forces the fake clinics to say something they don’t agree with. Doctors would then have an opening to push back against requirements to deliver outright falsehoods about abortion.

If the court upholds California’s law, we could see more states adopt something similar.

Either way, people who value reproductive freedom should keep a close eye on this case.

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