Pro-life pregnancy centers challenge Hawaii law requiring health facilities to promote abortions

Hawaii has passed a law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise state-funded abortions. | Pixabay/Greyerbaby

Pro-life pregnancy centers in Hawaii have filed a lawsuit to challenge a new law that requires health facilities to provide advertising for state-funded abortions and contraception coverage programs.

A Place for Women Pregnancy Care Center and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates are challenging S.B. 501, which requires locally funded pregnancy centers to post and distribute a notice indicating that the state offers free abortions, as well as a website link on where and how to schedule a taxpayer-funded abortion.

"This clinic does not provide abortion services or abortion referrals. Only ultrasounds performed by qualified healthcare professionals and read by licensed clinicians should be considered medically accurate," part of the notice read.

"Hawaii 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," it continued.

According to Christian News Network, the notice must also include the web address and phone number where women can obtain abortions or other services.

Pregnancy centers found to be in violation of the new regulation could be slapped with a $500 citation for a first-time offense and $1,000 for subsequent refusal to advertise abortions.

The two pro-life pregnancy centers have argued that such a requirement violates their faith and is tantamount to compelled speech.

The groups are asking for an injunction against the law and a declaration that it is unconstitutional both on its face and as applied to the pregnancy centers.

Unlike abortion businesses, the pregnancy centers targeted by the law are not funded by the state. All five pro-life pregnancy centers in Hawaii are operated and funded by Christians who have created the organizations as life-affirming alternatives to abortion.

The lawsuit against the Hawaii law is tied to an ongoing challenge to a similar law in California that could be headed to the Supreme Court as early as this fall.

In October 2016, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Hawaii and California, upheld the California law that requires pregnancy centers to promote abortions.

"Like the California law, this law violates the fundamental constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion," National Institute of Family and Life Advocates President Tom Glessner wrote to supporters on Tuesday, according to The Daily Signal.

"The matter is clear—if we win our case against California at the Supreme Court, then we will also win the Hawaii case. Failure is not an option for us," he added.

Apart from California and Hawaii, the state of Illinois has also tried to enact a law that penalizes pro-life medical practitioners for refusing to promote abortions. In 2016, the state overturned the Healthcare Right of Conscience Act to allow pro-life medical professionals to be held liable for refusing to counsel on the supposed "benefits" of abortions and refer their patients directly to local abortion providers.

Several groups, including the Alliance Defending Freedom and Thomas More Society, have filed lawsuits to challenge the Illinois mandate, and a judge has granted a preliminary injunction for three pregnancy centers in the state.

Similar attempts to enact laws that would have required pro-life pregnancy centers to post a notice to refer patients, directly or indirectly, to abortion providers have been struck down in New York City; Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; and Montgomery County, Maryland.