Win for pregnancy centers, free speech

By Sherry Weller - Guest columnist

Just last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down a 5-4 ruling on the NIFLA v. Becerra case, overturning the 2015 California law that forced pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for tax-funded abortions.

This may be the most significant decision in at least the last decade of the pro-life/pro-choice divide, yet the implications are far more reaching than this particular battlefield.

The Reproductive Fact Act, passed in California in 2015, required medically licensed pregnancy centers to post signs and distribute forms advertising that the state provides free or low-cost abortions. Signs had to include a phone number for abortion referrals and a mandated message in every client waiting-area.

The law also stated that pregnancy centers not medically licensed by the state were required to post a disclaimer (in no smaller than 48-point font and up to 13 different languages) that they are not a medical facility.

As soon as the law went into effect, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) filed a motion to appeal that began a 3-year trek through the 9th circuit and eventually found its way to SCOTUS. While many cases go up to this highest judiciary level very few are actually heard, a testament to the significance of this particular case and its bearing on the freedom of speech for all Americans.

The SCOTUS verdict was announced a week ago Tuesday with Justice Thomas stating in the majority brief, “the people lose when the government decides which thought prevails.” This ruling that no one can compel someone to express a message they wouldn’t otherwise express is really a win-win in our diverse society. Tolerance and respect are essential but must be afforded by both sides to enable true democracy.

This latest triumph for pregnancy centers has officially been crowned with last Thursday’s announcement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. While Kennedy pointed out the “absurdity of the [California] law’s requirement on pregnancy centers” back in March and he voted for the overturn of the law, he was considered a swing vote on most issues.

Tom Glessner, NIFLA President, even stated in a webcast last week that “Kennedy was not our friend on abortion.” His absence now has many anticipating the appointment of a pro-life justice in the near future, and an even larger victory to come — the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

It seems the political climate is poised and ready for this next step, but as the Director of the only pregnancy resource center in Clinton County, I’d like to share my personal perspective.

I meet women often who are facing one of the most critical times in their lives — the moment they learn that they have been given the gift of life and are free to choose what happens next. Essentially, they have three options – to parent, to give life and make an adoption plan, or to abort.

Regardless of what I think or feel, each woman in the U.S. facing this crossroads decision has the freedom to choose.

At the New Life Clinic, we get it! We’ve encountered women who face this choice from every imaginable circumstance. We’ve met women who have already decided the fate of their pregnancy and others who are looking for any answer that might make their decision one they can live with. We also talk with soon-to-be fathers, who are too often overlooked in this critical decision.

In every instance, I want to give those individuals (male or female) the tools they will need to feel good about their choice. I want them to have a safe place to learn about all of their options before making a rash decision. I want them to understand that they are valued and will not be judged.

Whether abortion continues to be legal in this country or not, young women and men facing this most crucial part of their lives need support. They need prenatal care and education.

At NLC, we provide that care. We stand ready to encourage and equip every client who seeks our help. We share the truth in love and allow clients the freedom to decide what is best.

Roe v. Wade or NOT, the New Life Clinic will continue to serve as long as we are given the opportunity.

Sherry Weller is Executive Director of New Life Clinic in Wilmington.

By Sherry Weller

Guest columnist