Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit July 25 on behalf of the pregnancy centers and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, or NIFLA, a national pro-life group. The pro-life activists sued after Vermont’s liberal governor, Phil Scott, signed two radical bills into law in May that pleased homosexual rights groups and abortion supporters.
“Vermont’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, is going against his party by protecting access to gender-affirming care and abortion instead of restricting or banning the procedures,” states a glowing story by The Advocate, an LGBT news website.
Julia Payne, an ADF attorney, tells AFN the the new law also restricts the First Amendment rights of pregnancy centers in Vermont, too. So two pregnancy centers, Branches and Aspire Now, are co-plaintiffs in the case.
“If the centers advertise services in a way the pro-abortion attorney general considers misleading, the center could face fines up to $10,000,” the ADF attorney explains. “And it also restricts what providers are allowed to provide…at pregnancy centers."
Those restrictions are not mentioned in the Advocate story nor in a similar story by The Hill but, sure enough, an official summary of the bill states it “establishes a new ‘unfair and deceptive act’ regarding limited-services pregnancy centers to prohibit false and misleading advertising about services.”
A new state law to define abortion-related terms could pose a legal challenge for abortion supporters, who often call a growing human fetus a “clump of cells" or, worse, a "parasite."
Abortion supporters rarely use the word “abortion,” either, using terms such as “women's health care” and “reproductive rights."
In a story about the ADF lawsuit, National Review explains Vermont legislators passed “shield bills” during their recent session to protect physicians and insurance providers from malpractice claims related to so-called “gender-affirming care” and abortion services. It is clear the new law unfairly targets pro-life pregnancy centers, the NRO story concludes, by singling out medical centers that don’t provide abortions and by accusing them of “misleading” advertising without defining what that means.
The new state law means liberal Vermont has become the latest state to target the unwelcomed pregnancy centers, which discourage expectant mothers from having an abortion by providing free ultrasounds that show an unborn baby’s heartbeat. The pregnancy centers also help expectant mothers with everything from diapers and baby clothes to formula and strollers since the expense of an unplanned newborn is often a reason a woman considers an abortion.
Payne, the ADF attorney, says the religious liberty law firm successfully represented NIFLA in a federal lawsuit that fought and defeated a California law that restricted pro-life pregnancy centers to that state. That law required a pro-life pregnancy center to post state-paid abortion services for its clients to see. It was defeated in 2018 in a narrow 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We won that case at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Payne says, “but states still are passing laws that restrict pregnancy center’s speech.”
ADF is currently fighting a similar case against the state of Illinois, she says.