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Abortion referral law blocked by judge

November 9, 2017
Valerie Schmalz

A California Superior Court judge granted a permanent injunction against the state attorney general and he is now prevented from enforcing the Reproductive FACT law, which requires pro-life pregnancy centers to post a sign with a referral number for information about obtaining an abortion.

“Compelled speech must be subject to reasonable limitation,” ruled Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gloria Trask in the Oct. 30 decision that provides injunctive relief statewide and prevents the law from being enforced effective immediately.

“The statute compels the clinic to speak words with which it profoundly disagrees when the state has numerous alternative methods of publishing its message. … In this case, however virtuous the state’s ends, they do not justify its means,” Judge Trask ruled.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has announced he will appeal Judge Trask’s ruling.

The Reproductive FACT Act was signed into law in 2015 by Gov. Jerry Brown and took effect Jan. 1, 2016. The legal challenge was brought by Advocates for Faith & Freedom on behalf of The Scharpen Foundation in state court. A previous federal challenge failed in October 2016 when the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to hear the case.

“We are thrilled with Judge Trask’s ruling, which is a huge victory for free speech,” said Scott Scharpen, founder and president of The Scharpen Foundation, which operates the Go Mobile For Life pregnancy clinic. “The whole notion of being compelled to share information with our patients about abortion availability, which is contrary to our mission and purpose, is fundamentally wrong. Lives will be saved because of this ruling.”

California Catholic Conference executive director Ned Dolejsi applauded the Oct. 30 ruling by Judge Trask, noting the California bishops opposed the legislation, making many of the same arguments.

“It was a pure and simple violation of free speech and a violation of religious liberty,” Dolejsi said.

“We’re extremely supportive of the lawsuit,” Dolejsi said. “I thought the court order was well grounded and very responsible. “

The Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency) law requires all facilities with the primary purpose of “providing family planning or pregnancy-related services” to inform clients about other existing family-planning options by providing the following prominent disclaimer prominently on its website: “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number].”

In her ruling, Judge Trask said, that “the Reproductive FACT Act violates Article I, Section 2 of the California Constitution.”

Nada Higuera, the attorney who argued the case, discovered she was pregnant when she initially pleaded this pro-life case. She gave birth to her baby girl just a month before her convincing final arguments were heard by the judge.

“As a young female and defender of speech, I am thrilled to know that our work is not in vain,” said Higuera. “I’ve regrettably had an abortion. And I’ve just recently experienced the incomparable joy of having a baby. I wish I would have had the opportunity to visit a pro-life clinic when I was just 16 years old and contemplating an abortion.”

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