The last time I checked, California’s laws were made by the Legislature. The pro-choice voters of California elected legislators to pass laws protecting abortion rights and bucking a national trend of relentless attacks on reproductive freedom.
But now the Legislature’s willingness to break new ground has attracted attention from the anti-choice movement wreaking havoc around the country. Multimillion-dollar organizations have filed five separate lawsuits to try to stop the Reproductive FACT Act, a law designed to provide women with critical information when they are making time-sensitive decisions about pregnancy.
Licensed pregnancy centers must inform clients that the state can help them access affordable family planning, abortion care and prenatal care. Unlicensed pregnancy centers must alert clients that they aren’t licensed medical providers. Nothing in the law prevents centers from sharing their views on abortion or requires them to refer women to abortion providers.
The Reproductive FACT Act is straightforward, reasonable and popular. It passed by nearly 2-to-1 majorities in the Assembly and Senate. A poll showed that 80 percent of Californians – including a majority of Republicans and Catholics – support the law. It’s been hailed around the country as the first successful attempt to mitigate the damage done by crisis pregnancy centers that masquerade as comprehensive reproductive health clinics but manipulate women to reject abortion care.
After losing in four different courts to temporarily block the law while litigation continues, several crisis pregnancy centers have made it no secret that they intend to disobey the law.
This onslaught of lawsuits is not just about denying women information. It’s an intimidation tactic, a warning shot to any state that would dare to stand up to deceptive tactics of the anti-choice movement. These groups are suing local authorities and then offering to drop them from the suits if they agree not to enforce the law, a move that could have a chilling effect across the state. That’s why we joined with our friends at UltraViolet and Courage Campaign to collect more than 25,000 petition signatures showing local authorities that Californians stand behind them.
This network of anti-choice legal organizations is ready to bully anyone who stands in the way of their agenda. The Alliance Defending Freedom was behind the Arizona law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers. They provided “experts” and briefs in support of the Texas anti-abortion laws currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The American Center for Law and Justice defends Troy Newman, who argued that the government should execute abortion providers. Liberty Counsel represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. The Pacific Justice Institute harassed a transgender student so severely that she had to be put on suicide watch, and it has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
We need to show these groups that we put our values and the health of California women first. Our state shouldn’t cave to people who want to deny women information to help them make the best reproductive health decisions for themselves and their families. That means local authorities must use their enforcement powers to hold violators accountable.
Amy Everitt is state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.