A federal judge has said "aloha" to a law in Hawaii that forces pregnancy centers and pro-life doctors to advertise for the abortion industry.
The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson comes in light of this year's Supreme Court NIFLA v Becerra decision affirming free speech.
"Pro-life pregnancy centers cannot be forced to provide free advertising to the abortion industry consistent with the First Amendment, but that is precisely what Hawaii has done here with this law," says attorney Elissa Graves of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the organization representing parties in both the Hawaii case and NIFLA v Becerra. "Federal law under the Church and Weldon Amendments prohibits discrimination against pro-life doctors and their staff based on their beliefs about abortion."
The Hawaii case is known as Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor v Suzuki. ADF attorneys challenged Senate Bill 501 (later retitled Act 200) on behalf of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor's pregnancy center, "A Place for Women in Waipio," and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which has five pregnancy center affiliates in Hawaii. Act 200 required pro-life pregnancy centers to direct women to a state agency that provides abortion referrals and funding. It would have required pro-life centers to post large signs or provide notice to clients that the state of Hawaii "has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services," which include abortion-inducing drugs.
But in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in NIFLA v Becerra, the Hawaii attorney general agreed that the compelled speech mandate at the heart of the law was unconstitutional. On Thursday, District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson held as much when he declared that portion of the law unconstitutional and permanently enjoined the state of Hawaii from enforcing it.
"Hawaii's law was particularly egregious. Not only did it force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion, it also compelled a church to promote abortion inside its building," said NIFLA President Thomas Glessner. "The state of Hawaii has acknowledged that its attempt to force pro-life centers and churches to advertise its abortion agenda was unconstitutional. This case constitutes a major victory for free speech and freedom of religion."
"Hawaii's pro-life, nonprofit pregnancy centers offer free practical resources, information, and emotional support to women—no matter what choices those women make," said Derald Skinner, pastor of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor and president of "A Place for Women in Waipio." "We're grateful that the state has backed off its unconstitutional attack on our ministry. Our doors remain open, and we continue to offer love, care, and compassion for all women and their precious little babies in our community."