Appeals Court upholds California's abortion education law

By Christopher Knoll | Oct 30, 2016

SACRAMENTO -- A state law passed last year designed to ensure women at private, religious-based female clinics receive information regarding the state’s coverage of low-cost or free abortions has been upheld in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Dorothy Nelson ruled that the claim by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal group representing private offices in California, that their clients' First Amendment rights were violated was unfounded.

Matt Bowman, an attorney with ADF, described the ruling as “unjust and dangerous." 

“The government should not be allowed to force religious people to be exposed to beliefs contrary to theirs," Bowman told the Northern California Record.

Bowman said the decision was inherently “inconsistent with other appellate court rulings” in Texas, New York and Maryland and that he planned to have the court rehear the case. Bowman said it was possible this issue could end up before the Supreme Court.

The case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Harris was prompted by the 2015 California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency Act. This law required licensed and unlicensed women’s health care clinics inform their patients of their right to an abortion funded entirely or partially by the state.

However, there was more at issue according to Bowman. 

“It’s bad enough if the government engages in censorship and tells you what you can’t say, but a law that tells you what you must say—under threat of severe punishment—is even more unjust and dangerous," he said.

The duplicity of the government does not stop there, Bowman said. He claimed in a case brief that during the run-up to the law’s passing, at least one member of the California legislature “blatantly admitted to using the act to target pro-life groups.”

Then there is the history attached to former California Attorney General Kamala Harris, the same Harris whose name is attached to the case in question. When an undercover video revealed that Planned Parenthood offices were peddling fetal tissue and organs, Harris was caught by journalists collaborating with the abortion organization to draft legislation punishing a filmmaker. That producer also had his home raided by the attorney general’s office and his notes and videos confiscated. Harris is currently running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate representing California.

During the trial, the government contended that women at the private clinics were subject to intimidation by workers and counselors. Responding to her decision, Nelson said, “California has a substantial interest in the health of its citizens, including ensuring that its citizens have access to and adequate information about constitutionally protected medical services like abortion.”

Bowman scoffed at the intimidation allegation.

“There is no evidence or scientific study supporting the claim of intimidating practices by the facilities," he said.

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Alliance Defending Freedom California Attorney General U.S. Senate

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