By Julia Conley
Demanding unlicensed anti-choice health centers “stop the lies” they tell women who are facing unwanted pregnancy, reproductive rights advocates on Tuesday railed against the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in which the majority ruled that so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” can withhold crucial health-related information from patients.
“Fake” health centers were able to secure their victory thanks to the “stolen seat” inhabited by Justice Neil Gorsuch, noted groups including NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“Five male Supreme Court justices gave crisis pregnancy centers the right to lie to women today,” said Heidi Hess, CREDO Action co-director, in a statement. “Rather than affirm women’s right to control their bodies and their lives, the Court voted to control women, and to set the stage for even more attacks on our reproductive rights.”
On twitter, NARAL stated: “SCOTUS just ruled that unlicensed fake women’s health centers are free to dress up as doctors and deliberately lie to women about their reproductive health. We know that women deserve the truth — and we won’t stop fighting.”
Gorsuch was elevated to his seat in the nation’s highest court after Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), spent a year refusing to hold confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland after President Barack Obama nominated him to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.
The ruling by the court’s right-wing majority will dictate the fate of the many women who find themselves in so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs). These centers are unlicensed, often religious facilities made to look like health clinics but really set up to misinform women about their rights and persuade them against abortion care.
“One vote: That’s the difference between ending the lies and deception at fake women’s health centers or letting them off the hook for their dangerous and deceptive practices,” said NARAL President Ilyse Hogue. “The deception at fake women’s health centers is real, but five Justices still refused to act on behalf of women who need accurate information to make the best decisions for our families and our lives. Today, the Supreme Court turned its back on women and condoned the deceptive tactics used by fake women’s health centers.”
A group of CPCs brought their case to the Supreme Court, arguing against California’s Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act. The 2015 law mandates that the centers tell their clients about access to free or low-cost family planning services, including abortion care, provided by the state. It also requires the facilities to tell patients that they are unlicensed and not staffed by medical professionals.
The Supreme Court found that the law “likely violates the First Amendment.”
The case will now be returned to lower courts, with pro-choice groups rallying behind the FACT law and arguing that women should be protected from CPCs that aim to deceive them in order to further their anti-choice ideology—and from other right-wing attacks on Roe vs. Wade and the right to abortion care.
“Let’s be clear: fake women’s health centers are deceptive and harmful to women — lying to women, withholding medical information, and cutting off access to care. Nothing in this SCOTUS decision suggests otherwise,” stated Planned Parenthood Action.