DOJ supports pro-lifers seeking to overturn California law requiring pregnancy centers to promote abortions

Information on pregnancy is seen in a waiting area inside of a new million,14,000-square foot Planned Parenthood health center in Long Island City, in the Queens borough of New York City September 1, 2015. | Reuters/Mike Segar

The Department of Justice has filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of California pro-life pregnancy centers that are challenging a state law that requires them to provide information on government abortion programs.

The law, known as the Reproductive FACT Act, requires pregnancy centers to post an advisory in a "conspicuous place" within the clinic, informing patients that the state offers subsidized abortions.

The measure was signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown in Oct. 2015, prompting pro-life clinics to challenge the law.

Among the clinics that filed suit were the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, the Pregnancy Care Clinic and the Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Centers.

In 2016, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law, finding that the requirement served a significant government interest.

The clinics contended that the measure should be subjected to "strict scrutiny," which is the most penetrating level of judicial inquiry. The Department of Justice, on the other hand, argued that the high court does not need to use strict scrutiny as the law fails even more relaxed standards.

"Licensed clinics have a strong interest in refraining from speech that advertises third-party services they find morally repugnant," the DOJ stated in the brief, as reported by The Stream.

"California has not substantiated any particularized interest in having licensed clinics themselves disseminate the notice." the department continued.

The DOJ did not challenge the FACT Act's second requirement, which states that unlicensed clinics should post a second disclosure informing clients that they do not have a state license.

The Department argued that the second requirement is lawful, noting that California has the right to legally require providers to disclose uncontroversial information related to a significant state interest, such as licensing medical professionals.

Meanwhile, more than 140 members of Congress have also joined a brief in support of the pro-life pregnancy centers involved in the case.

"The FACT Act's requirements do not merely restrict the pro-life centers' speech, they necessarily and fundamentally alter it—all the while violating the centers' conscience rights. As speakers in a noncommercial context, these centers have absolute 'autonomy to choose the content of [their] own message,'" the brief, filed on Tuesday, stated, according to Christian News Network.

The lawmakers who signed the brief include Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Steve Daines of Montana.

"Not only have these pro-life centers chosen 'not [to] otherwise make' abortion referrals, they exist to communicate precisely the opposite viewpoint and offer life-affirming options to women. To promote a mother's option to get an abortion would defeat these centers' core message," the brief from the lawmakers went on to say.

Several other briefs have been filed in support of the pregnancy centers, including those submitted by a coalition of 22 states, 41 family policy organizations, 23 legal scholars, and numerous pregnancy centers and pro-life groups nationwide.