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US Supreme Court: government cannot force citizens to express messages they disagree with

– Top court issues pivotal free speech ruling in landmark pro-life case
– Human rights advocates welcome court decision upholding fundamental rights


WASHINGTON (26.6.2018) – In a pivotal free speech decision issued Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against government-compelled speech in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. The ruling strikes down a California law that forced pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry and affirmed that the government cannot force citizens to express messages with which they disagree.

“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion,” said Alliance Defending Freedom President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris, who argued on behalf of NIFLA before the Supreme Court in March. “In this case, the government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centres to provide free advertising for abortion. The Supreme Court said that the government can’t do that, and that it must respect pro-life beliefs.”

Alliance Defending Freedom will host a media briefing featuring ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner, NIFLA President Thomas Glessner, and NIFLA Vice President of Legal Affairs Anne O’Connor at 12:30 p.m. EDT (9:30 a.m. PDT) Tuesday. Interested media may participate online or by calling 001 425 440-5100 using guest PIN 356719#.

Tolerance and respect

“Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a diverse society like ours,” Farris added. “They enable us to peacefully coexist with one another. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to others.”

“The right of free speech protected in the First Amendment not only includes the right to speak, but also the right to not be compelled by government to speak a message with which one disagrees and which violates one’s conscience,” said Glessner. “The court correctly found that the California law clearly offends this principle. We are very pleased with the court’s decision and for what it means for the many pro-life centres that serve and empower women in California and throughout the country.”

Pro-life centres forced to promote abortion

The California law, AB 775, required licensed medical centres that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post or distribute a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services.

The disclosure was also required to include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry.

Additionally, the law forced unlicensed pregnancy centres to add large disclosures in multiple languages about their non-medical status in advertisements, which obscured their pro-life speech. Failure to comply carried civil fines up to $1,000 US per violation.

Speech protected by international law

Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, the global partner of Alliance Defending Freedom, said, “Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right guaranteed by every major human rights treaty. One of the key components of freedom of speech is the freedom not to speak; the freedom not to be forced into promoting a message with which you disagree. We’re delighted that the US Supreme Court upheld this fundamental human right.”

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