Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pregnancy Clinics Deny Abortion Information

East County Pregnancy Care Clinic: El Cajon, CA
Pregnancy clinics in California are fighting back against the Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency) Act, which tells the clinics to provide location and contact information on where pregnant women can get free or low-cost abortions. They are also supposed to tell them that contraception and prenatal care is available as well. The East County Pregnancy Care Clinic in El Cajon, along with others, say this law is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It is one of many clinics that is run by religious opponents of abortion (it was established by evangelical churches in the 1990s). There have been claims that some of these clinics, without explicitly saying so, try to convince expecting mothers to not get an abortion because of imminent health and emotional risks, but the government has been unable to do anything about it since it would violate the Free Speech Clause. It is said that the claims made by the clinics are false or misleading, trying to convince the mother that the option of abortion is extremely dangerous in the long-term.

People trying to push the law through say it is neither a violation of Free Exercise or the Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment because no one is saying anything against a certain religion or telling them that they cannot believe something, and they are only requesting that information about abortions and contraception should be predominantly placed throughout the clinic. Matt Bowman, a lawyer from Alliance Defending Freedom, said, "You've got to give women information about abortion even though the reason you exist is to give them alternatives to abortion," in his defense for the clinic. In reply, deputy attorney general, Anthony Hakl, said, "the interest of the state is compelling - that is to ensure women's access to a complete range of reproductive health services." The El Cajon clinic says that they provide the women truthful information about all the options (parenting, adoption, and abortion) and it is then up to the women to decide what they want to do afterwards. This clinic is also unlicensed, so they have one nurse manager and ten nurse volunteers. The law states that these clinics need to post that they are not licensed with the state of California and are not able to provide medical care.

Should these unlicensed clinics be forced to tell women about abortions and contraception, even though it goes against their religious beliefs?

I argue that there is a compelling state interest in regards to the health and safety of women. However, according to this law, unlicensed clinics are only subject to two or more of the following:

1.) offers obstetric ultrasounds, obstetric sonograms, or prenatal care to pregnant women
2.) offers pregnancy testing or pregnancy diagnosis
3.) advertises or solicits patrons with offers to provide prenatal sonography, pregnancy tests, or pregnancy options counseling
4.) has staff or volunteers that collect health information from clients

There is no clause in this Act that would require them to give abortion information since they are not licensed. I do not think the law is violating any of their rights. In this situation, the bigger issue at hand is that women need to have all of the information available, despite personal or religious beliefs. Even if the law explicitly stated that a clinic needed to tell an expecting mother about the option of abortion, the law would not be telling the clinic that they need to convince a mother to have an abortion. It is all focused on educating a woman about what she can do if she is pregnant, whether that be parenting, adoption, or abortion.

The law is constitutional because it does not limit a person from exercising their religion. The clinic does not have to perform an abortion, they simply need to give that information out about a place that can. They may feel like this is a direct attack on their beliefs, however, there is more interest in the health and safety of women. No one is saying that abortion is a "good" thing - but it is an option for expecting mothers and they need to know the pros and cons of each option, not just of the options that the religious clinic deems right and ethical.

The case is expected to go throughout the year, and groups against the law are planning on pushing all the way through to the Supreme Court.


Rosalie said...

I agree that this law compelling clinics to provide women vital information is an important part of keeping privatized health care transparent and is constitutional. I think that as health care providers they should be required to inform their clients of alternate health care options. Patients have the right to know all information about their health, including where to get an abortion. This is certainly a compelling state interest because unlicensed clinics especially need to be held to high standards.

Lucy Fishell said...

I think this argument could be further argued by pointing out that pregnancy centers that practice in this way have taken government funding that originally allocated to much more moral organizations who practice in women's healthcare. By these pregnancy centers arguing this bill goes against their Free Exercise, they would also be admitting to this funding given by the government goes against the Establishment Clause. I agree with you that it certainly is in the state's interest for the wellbeing of their citizens that this Bill is kept in order, but also in their interest not to challenge it by bringing religion into their argument because many Pregnancy centers, like this one receive federal funding.

Liz S. said...

This is a tricky situation. While there is a compelling state interest to force this clinic and ones like it to inform visitors of all health care options available to them, this clinic is also be privately held and unlicensed. I am going to provide the opposing argument simply because it has not been explored in the comments of this post or the post itself yet. The licensed clinics seem to be more backed by the state since the state has had to approve them in some sense. Thus, I wonder if the Reproductive FACT law should only apply to licensed clinics since they are backed by the state more so than unlicensed ones. Since the clinic is unlicensed, it seems more likely that it may have a larger say in the way it provides information to visitors, with more of a religious aspect to the clinic, than a licensed one. Since it is unlicensed there is less of a government involvement, meaning that there is already a separation between church (this religious health clinic) and state. Does anyone else think the fact that the clinic is unlicensed should have any sort of affect on this case?

Sarah A said...

While I can appreciate Liz's point, I still have to agree with Rosalie and Lucy above. The idea of an "unlicensed" clinic is frightening- if they do not have to undergo regulation, that implies that maybe they aren't subject to the law? I think that this opens the door for a whole different arena or issues-- are unlicensed clinics allowed to give whatever information they want? can they not only avoid the topic of abortion but also STDs? mental health? Obviously these questions might not come up for this clinic, but i think allowing this unlicensed clinic could open the door for others.