Attorney General Becerra Files Brief in U.S. Supreme Court Defending California’s Reproductive FACT Act
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a brief yesterday in the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of California’s Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act which empowers women by requiring they receive neutral, fact-based information.
The law requires state-licensed clinics to inform women of the availability of publicly-funded, full-service reproductive healthcare. Millions of California women are in need of publicly funded reproductive healthcare. In 2012 alone, more than 2.6 million women were in need of these services. Yet, at the moment they learn that they are pregnant, many women remain unaware of public programs. The Act also requires non-licensed clinics to identify to patients that they are not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California.
The brief, filed in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Xavier Becerra, defends the constitutionality of the FACT Act’s required disclosures because they are crafted to provide women facing pregnancy with vital factual information about their healthcare options at a critical time in their decision making. California’s law is neutral on advocating a particular option, and instead is designed to present women with factual information about their healthcare and not to hamper a facility’s ability to present its own messages.
“Information is power, and it is vital that pregnant women making personal healthcare decisions know when they are getting medical care from licensed professionals,” said Attorney General Becerra. “All women, regardless of their income, should have access to healthcare. The Reproductive FACT Act ensures that women receive accurate information about access to free or reduced healthcare at the time when they need it the most. The California Department of Justice will do everything necessary to protect women’s healthcare."
In creating the FACT Act, the California Legislature determined that millions of California women are in need of publicly funded family planning services, contraception services and education, abortion services, and prenatal care and delivery. More than 700,000 California women become pregnant every year and one-half of these pregnancies are unintended. Yet, at the moment they learn that they are pregnant, many women remain unaware of the public programs available to provide them with contraception, health education and counseling, family planning, prenatal care, abortion, or delivery. Further, the Legislature found that certain limited-service providers that either do not provide medical care or only provide limited types of care, such as ultrasounds, were holding themselves out as medical providers by using lab coats, forms, or deceptive advertising, compounding these access challenges for low-income California women.
In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Xavier Becerra, the plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to prohibit enforcement of the Reproductive FACT Act, claiming that it violated their First Amendment free speech rights by compelling them to utter a government message. The federal district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals both rejected the plaintiffs' arguments and refused to grant the preliminary injunction. On November 13, 2017, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the case. The oral arguments are set to be heard on March 20 before the Supreme Court.