'It's unconstitutional': Religious pregnancy centres file suit vs. California abortion law

Activists hold signs as they rally against abortion outside City Hall in Los Angeles, California, on Sept. 29, 2015.Reuters

Two religious pregnancy centres have filed a lawsuit challenging a new California law that requires all health facilities in the state to notify their clients of the availability of free or low-cost abortion services in the state.

California-based A Woman's Friend Pregnancy Resource Clinic and Crisis Pregnancy Center of Northern California are challenging the state's Reproductive Fact Act that was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown recently, saying it is unconstitutional.

The law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, mandates all licensed covered facilities to disseminate to clients the following notice: "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 telephone number]."

The bill was sponsored by state Attorney Gen. Kamala Harris and the pro-abortion group NARAL Pro-Choice America, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In their lawsuit, the two religious pregnancy centres cite their religious and moral objections to abortion. They said telling clients of the availability of abortion services "directly violates the foundational religious principles" of the centres.

"Disseminating the mandated State message, which is inconsistent with Plaintiffs' religious convictions, burdens these clinics' free exercise of religion secured under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as made applicable to the state through the Fourteenth Amendment," the lawsuit read.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the centres, said, "Forcing a religious pro-life charity to proclaim a pro-abortion declaration is on its face an egregious violation of both the free speech and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment to the Constitution. We will not rest until this government mandate is completely halted."

Assemblyman David Chiu, who introduced the bill, said, "It's not surprising that anti-choice activists providing misleading information in their clinics have brought a lawsuit against AB 775, which was carefully vetted by our attorney general. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld a woman's right to choose, and we look forward to courts agreeing with us."