They’re called “crisis pregnancy centers,” but those familiar with their deceptive practices know “fake abortion clinics” is a more fitting description.
Crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, look like full-service reproductive health centers, but they are purely pro-life operations that aim to discourage women from having an abortion.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) do not need to fully disclose what they are.
The justices had to choose between the right to know and the right to free speech.
They chose to rule against California, which enacted a law in 2015 to ensure the centers do not continue misinforming the women who walk through their doors.
CPCs have a notorious history of false advertising. They claim to offer free pregnancy tests, sonograms and abortions to attract women facing unwanted pregnancies. They exploit search engine optimization tricks that ensure they’re the top results when searching for “abortion clinic.”
The personnel wear surgical scrubs and often provide false medical information. Vulnerable young women who mistakenly step inside a CPC are lied to by people who dress up like medical professionals (but aren’t) and work in places that look like medical clinics (but aren’t).
Crisis Pregnancy Centers outnumber actual abortion clinics 3 to 1.
The California law that challenged CPCs is called the Reproductive FACT Act. It requires licensed clinics to post information about affordable abortion, and requires unlicensed clinics to disclose their lack of medical certification.
Supporters of California’s law say it was necessary to combat crisis pregnancy centers’ dishonesty. However, CPCs argued that the law forced them to “promote” abortion, and speak a message that goes against the very nature of their existence.
The Supreme Court sided with the CPCs, ruling that the government could not compel people to say things at odds with their beliefs. The vote was 5 to 4, with the conservative justices in the majority.
Just as some states provide taxpayer funds for abortions, CPCs have received tens of millions of dollars in tax money through state and federal funds.
Legislators in Texas allotted an additional $20 million in state taxes to fund anti-abortion CPCs. Legislators in other states pass countless bills imposing restrictions on real abortion clinics, causing many of them to shut down, while letting these fake abortion clinics run free.
A CPC is nothing but a trick, a trap. And the Supreme Court just said: "Trick away."
In the polarized Supreme Court, justices almost exclusively vote along party lines. With a greater proportion of conservatives on the court, the likelihood of liberal rulings has been grim.
And it’s about to get grimmer.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing voter in most of the Supreme Court’s close cases of the last decade, is retiring at age 81. Kennedy was a moderate, embracing liberal views of gay rights, abortion and the death penalty, yet helping conservatives block gun control measures and uphold Trump’s travel ban.
President Donald Trump will choose his successor. Undoubtedly, he’ll pick an extremely conservative justice.
Experts worry this will endanger a variety of landmark Supreme Court precedents on social issues like abortion. The judicial branch of American government is about to see a drastic shift to one end of the ideological spectrum, and it doesn’t bode well for women’s reproductive justice.