Catherine Glenn Foster, a 2016 James Wilson Fellow, offers commentary on the pending case on the rights of NIFLA v. Becerra before the Supreme Court with her piece, “If walls could talk, would they advertise abortions?”
Foster, who serves as president of Americans United for Life, summarizes the background of the case and argues why the Court should overturn California’s law that forces Pregnancy Care Centers affiliated with the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates to hang posters in support of abortion in their offices. Foster articulates why forcing these business to display these posters impedes on the First Amendment right of freedom of speech.
In their care for patients, these conscientious doctors and nurses follow the ethical guidelines expressed in the Hippocratic Oath, which the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade called “the nucleus of all medical ethics.” In affirming the well-established right not to offer medical services in violation of one’s conscience, the Roe Court cited favorably an American Medical Association resolution that stated that “no physician or other professional personnel shall be compelled to perform any act which violate[s] his [or her] good medical judgment [or] … to perform any act violative of personally held moral principles.”
Similarly, the freedom to speak — or not to speak — based on your moral principles is a bedrock principle of our nation, enshrined in the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. There are certain narrow exceptions, including appropriate informed consent regulations of the physician-patient relationship when a particular medical procedure is offered. Undoubtedly, the state has the right and responsibility to ensure that women who are considering going through with an abortion receive all of the relevant information before undergoing such an invasive medical procedure. While Pregnancy Care Center counselors do offer women truthful information about the risks of abortion, AUL’s brief to the Supreme Court pointed out that there is clearly no informed consent exception here that would give California the authority to require them to provide information on a procedure that they do not offer.
Likewise, when scared women enter a Pregnancy Care Center seeking help in a vulnerable situation, the walls they see should represent the care and compassion those Centers promote. Walls can talk, and the Supreme Court should make sure everyone is free to decide what stories their walls will tell.
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