ERLC files Supreme Court brief in landmark pro-life case

February 19, 2018

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) recently filed a brief at the Supreme Court of the United States in this year’s landmark pro-life case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of California, which has implications for free speech and the life-saving work of pregnancy resource centers in communities all around our country.

The ERLC files amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in cases involving religious liberty, pro-life, and other issues critical to our Christian engagement in the public square. In this brief, we joined the National Association of Evangelicals, Concerned Women for America, the National Legal Foundation, and Samaritan’s Purse.

This is the second brief we’ve filed at the Supreme Court this term. Last year, we filed a brief defending religious liberty in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

Here’s what you need to know about the NIFLA case:

California recently passed a law requiring pro-life pregnancy resource centers to publicize abortion services provided by the state of California or face exorbitant fines that would likely put them out of business.

The ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project supports pregnancy resource centers by providing funds to purchase ultrasound machines in these centers to help women choose life. Now, these centers that provide counseling and other critical services to women and families are being targeted by this unconstitutional California law.

Russell Moore recently discussed the case with Baptist Press saying,

The outrageous demands being made in this case strike at the very heart of the freedom this nation has always sought to uphold and protect. Time and again, we see the abortion industry maneuvering to silence any and all dissent that would threaten their industry of death. I'm hopeful the Supreme Court will rule against these efforts that aim to steamroll groups serving vulnerable women.

While there are many legal standards and nuances discussed in our brief, our message is a simple and clear one—the Supreme Court must strike down this California law because it compels pro-life pregnancy centers to deliver a pro-abortion viewpoint, something antithetical to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

As our brief states, “No special carve-out for abortion should be made to free speech law.” Drawing on previous Supreme Court cases that clearly state that the government has a compelling interest in protecting unborn life, our brief contrasts the unconstitutional California regulation and those laws that require doctors and abortion clinics to provide medical information about abortions. Furthermore, Wooley v. Maynard clearly protects citizens and organizations from being compelled by the government to speak on any matter. In that case, the Supreme Court said, “The First Amendment protects the rights of individuals . . . to refuse to foster . . . an idea they find morally objectionable.”

If that precedent doesn’t protect those at pregnancy resource centers trying to lower the number of abortions from being forced to advertise abortions, then what does it protect?

The Supreme Court just scheduled oral arguments for this case for March 20. Click here to receive updates about this landmark case and find out how to support the ERLC's pro-life advocacy work in courts, legislatures, and communities from coast-to-coast.

Palmer Williams

A Founding Partner of The Peacefield Group, Palmer Williams specializes in legal and policy analysis related to international human rights, sanctity of life, non-profit operations and government affairs. As a licensed attorney knowledgeable in international law, she has extensive experience advocating for human rights on the international stage, including at … Read More