A California law that requires pregnancy centres in the state to promote abortion services is facing a legal challenge in court filed by a pastor who said the law is unconstitutional.
Pastor Scott Scharpen from Rock Valley Christian Church in Murietta, California, said the law, which pro-life groups call the "bully bill," mandates something that goes against the beliefs of Christians and violates the free speech provision of the California Constitution. Scharpen is the founder of a mobile pregnancy care centre.
The Reproductive FACT Act signed by Gov. Jerry Brown was made into law just this October. Its author Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu raised an issue with pregnancy centres that don't give out abortion referrals, according to Christian News.
"The author contends that, unfortunately, there are nearly 200 licensed and unlicensed clinics known as crisis pregnancy centres (CPCs) in California whose goal is to interfere with women's ability to be fully informed and exercise their reproductive rights, and that CPCs pose as full-service women's health clinics, but aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions," it reads.
The legislation requires all pregnancy care centres to hand out fliers that provide this information: "California has public programmes 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 (telephone number)."
However, Scharpen said he could not comply with the mandate since promoting abortion goes against his beliefs. "I will not post that notice in our clinic. I would rather close the clinic than post that notice," he said in a statement that was released by his attorneys from Advocates for Faith and Freedom.
"Now, by law, we are required to provide referral information to a woman for services that we find morally and ethically objectionable, namely abortion."
His mobile clinic, which is called Go Mobile for Life, provides free ultrasounds for women. Scharpen said it is actually more than a clinic since it is a ministry.
"It's a ministry. We share the gospel with them. Our slogan is 'GO serve women, GO save lives and GO share Jesus,'" he shared.
Scharpen said the lawsuit he filed last week against the State Government of California will challenge not only forced speech concerning abortion but also the issue of conscience.
"If the California state government gets away with telling pregnancy clinics what to say and even how to say it, then ALL faith-based businesses are at risk of being bullied into delivering the government's mandated speech," he said. "We must stand up and fight this unconstitutional law for the benefit of all people!"
His attorney Robert Tyler argued that the Reproductive FACT Act is illegal under the California Constitution. "Article 1, section 2 of the California Constitution provides greater protection for free speech than does the First Amendment," he explained. "Under the 'liberty of speech clause' in the California Constitution, the government has no right to compel individuals or corporations to adopt the government's view on abortion and has no right to compel them to advertise and promote abortions."
A hearing for a preliminary injunction has already been set for Dec. 23.