The pro-life pregnancy center will not be forced to denounce its mission

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(ADF Legal) Caring Families Pregnancy Services has been giving voice to women facing unintended pregnancies for over 30 years.

“We know how important it is for our clients to write their own stories,” says pregnancy center website. But as Caring Families strives to give its clients a voice, the city of Hartford has tried to silence the pregnancy center – or at least cover its voice – by passing city law that requires pregnancy centers to spreading misleading messages that undermine its mission.

Let’s take a deeper look the details of that case.

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Who: Pregnancy services for caring families

Caring Families Pregnancy Services is a private, faith-based, not-for-profit organization that provides women and families with the support they need to choose the life of their babies.

It offers many great services, including free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, advice on options, adoption recommendations, parenting classes, Bible studies, and support groups. Caring Families also provides pregnant women and new mothers with important material resources such as baby clothes, diapers, cribs and car seats. In order to reach more women in need, Caring Families even runs a mobile pregnancy center called MobileCare, which makes regular visits to Hartford and other communities in Connecticut.

The mission of Caring Families is to bring hope to women who may feel that abortion is their only option and to empower these women to make choices that empower them.

What: Caring Families v. City of Hartford

In 2017, the city of Hartford passed Ordinance No. 25-17, a law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to display posters and start conversations with a written warning from the government. The disclaimer wrongly implies that the centers are not qualified to provide the free services they offer as there is no licensed healthcare professional on site at all times. But many of the various free services offered by Caring Families can be provided in a safe, efficient and legal manner without the presence of a healthcare professional.

If Caring Families did not display this sign, it could face a fine of up to $ 100 per day of refusal.

It looks a lot like the California law that the Supreme Court struck down in National Institute of Family and Life Defenders (NIFLA) c. Becerra in 2018. This law forced pro-life pregnancy centers to request abortions. Much like California law, Hartford’s law specifically targeted pro-life pregnancy centers and forced them to deliver a message that undermines their own mission.

“Hartford claims it promotes comprehensive health care information, but only interferes with specific perspectives on life, pregnancy, motherhood – a double standard that is both troubling and unconstitutional. noted ADF Counsel Denise Harle

The Hartford ordinance threatened the free speech rights of Caring Families. So, with the help of ADF lawyers, Caring Families filed a lawsuit against the city of Hartford, challenging its unconstitutional law.

When: April 2019 — July 2020

Caring families filed his complaint in April 2019, challenging the City of Hartford’s order in federal court. Fortunately, in July 2020, city officials clarified which services are considered medical and admitted that the law does not apply to caring families, as they always have medical staff on site when providing medical services to women. . Based on this understanding the parties jointly closed the case.

Where: Hartford, Connecticut

Caring Families has been of service to women and families in and around the Hartford, Connecticut, area since 1986.

Why: defend the right of everyone to express themselves freely

Every American has the right to speak freely. It is protected by the First Amendment.

We generally think of violations of free speech as censorship – the government preventing someone from saying something. But it can also be violated the other way around: the government forcing someone to voice something against their beliefs.

It is a forced speech. And the United States Supreme Court made it clear in its 2018 decision in NIFLA v. Becerra, and many other cases, that forced speech of this kind is unconstitutional.

Tweet this: SCOTUS made it clear in NIFLA v. Becerra that it is unconstitutional to force pregnancy centers to speak out against their beliefs.

The bottom line

Pregnancy centers should be free to serve women and offer the support they need without fear of unfair government sanctions.

Editor’s Note: This article was published by Alliance Defending Freedom’s ADF Legal Blog and is reprinted with permission.

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