US top court mulls free speech rights over Pregnancy Care Clinic

Vastavam web: The Pregnancy Care Clinic in the Southern California city of El Cajon offers a host of services for pregnant women including ultrasound exams, prenatal vitamins and maternity clothes. Now the clinic, which staunchly opposes abortion, is among of a group of Christian-based facilities, known as crisis pregnancy centres, involved in a major case that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The law requires unlicensed facilities with no medical provider on staff to disclose that fact.“They’re forcing us to use our walls as a billboard to promote abortion,” Pregnancy Care Clinic Executive Director Josh McClure said in an interview.McClure, whose facility is licensed, compared California’s law to forcing the American Lung Association to tell people where to buy cigarettes.The centres say they offer legitimate services and that their mission is to persuade women to forego abortion.

The case is one of several the Supreme Court is tackling during its current term in which conservative legal groups are invoking the First Amendment and asserting that governments are unconstitutionally compelling people to say or do things they oppose.These cases may have a sympathetic audience on a court with a 5-4 conservative majority that already has been receptive to First Amendment arguments.

The Supreme Court is deciding six free speech cases this term. Three, like this one, involve claims of unlawful “compelled speech.” If the court strengthens protections against compelled speech, that could benefit conservative causes including limiting the reach of its 2015 decision legalizing gay marriage or freeing corporations from certain regulations.

“A victory in each of these cases would signal that there are … situations where a free speech claim might prevail against the government that might not have 20 years ago,” said attorney Ken Klukowski of the First Liberty Institute conservative legal group.