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20180626T1118 0169 CNS SCOTUS FREE SPEECH ABORTION 800Pro-life advocates gather near the U.S. Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 19. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 June 26 that a California law which placed requirements on crisis pregnancy centers that oppose abortion violates the First Amendment. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 June 26 that a California law that placed requirements on crisis pregnancy centers that oppose abortion violated the First Amendment.

In its decision in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, the court found that the law changes the content of the clinic's speech "by compelling petitioners to speak a particular message," and that the law went further than being a mere "regulation of professional conduct that incidentally burdens speech."

The state law in question is the Reproductive FACT Act, which says pregnancy centers must post notices in their facilities about where low-cost abortion services are available and also must disclose if they have medical personnel on staff.

During the oral arguments March 20, some of the justices expressed concerns that the law might be about specifically targeting crisis pregnancy centers instead of providing information about abortion, and the decision mentions that, if the goal of the law were merely providing information about abortion to the public, that goal could be accomplished in more effective ways that do not require speakers to deliver unwanted speech.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised the ruling as "an important victory for the free speech rights of pro-life organizations."

"The Supreme Court today has affirmed that the First Amendment protects the right of all organizations to choose for themselves not only what to say, but what not to say," he said in a statement.

"This includes allowing pro-life pregnancy care centers to continue providing life-affirming support to both mother and child without being forced by governments to provide free advertising for the violent act of abortion in direct violation of the center's pro-life convictions," he said.

The USCCB and several other faith-based groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the Supreme Court supporting the pro-life pregnancy centers in the case.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, who is co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said in a statement that "pregnancy centers want no part of a law requiring them to tell a woman where to go to kill her child. Thankfully, today the Supreme Court recognized their First Amendment right to free speech -- and to refrain from speaking."

"Crisis pregnancy centers like NIFLA serve women and children according to their religious mission, and California should respect that," said Mark Rienzi, president of Becket, which is a nonprofit religious liberty law firm. "This ruling proves that when it comes to important issues, the government doesn't get to tell people what to believe, and it also doesn't get to tell people what to say about it."

Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the opinion of the court, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. Kennedy filed a concurring opinion which Roberts, Alito and Gorsuch joined. Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. 

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.