The Supreme Court, bolstered by the latest appointee, Neil Gorsuch, has criticized a California law that requires pregnancy clinics to make clear the availability of abortion services. The law was adopted in California back in 2015 and ensured that pregnancy centers posted a prominent notice if they had “no licensed medical provider” available for abortion procedures.
This law has not gone down well among the most powerful legal voices in the United States.
Justice Elena Kagan, referring to the fact that both doctors and money-making clinics were exempt from the law, said, “If it has been gerrymandered, that’s a serious issue.” Justice Samuel Alito further argued that the law “has a lot of crazy exceptions. … What you’re left with is a very strange pattern, and, gee, it turns out just about the only clinics that are covered by this are pro-life clinics,” as reported by LA Times.
Other judges commented that the state-sanctioned notices are a violation of the First Amendment. Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote is crucial to upholding the right to an abortion, described the legal requirement as “mandating speech” that “alters the content of the message.”
“It seems to me that is an undue burden…and that should be enough to invalidate the statute,” Kennedy ruled.
Recent Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch asserted that the state should be responsible to provide citizens with “full information about their options,” and argued there were “other means” to put across these messages. “It’s pretty unusual to force a private speaker to do that for you under the 1st Amendment,” he noted.
Gorsuch also appeared to suggest that the state was using the clinics as a vehicle to promote its political message. “Why should the state free ride on a limited number of clinics to promote its interests?” he asked.
Objections to the law came from across the breadth of the bench. As Josh Gerstein pointed out in Politico, “even liberals like Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan raised doubts about that portion of the law.”
A full decision from the Supreme Court is due in June.