CA Legislator Ignores Supreme Court: Claims He Can Compel Private Schools to Promote His Message

Last year, the U.S Supreme Court struck down California’s Reproductive Fact Act as a violation of the First Amendment, because it required pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free-abortion phone numbers to their clients. Compelled speech violates free speech, the court said. But California Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel doesn’t think that decision applies to him.

In defiance of the court, he introduced a bill this year to force all public and private middle, high school, and colleges to print a “sexual or reproductive health hotline” on the back of student IDs. Ironically, Gabriel is using two discredited law professors, who publicly argued that the Reproductive Fact Act was constitutional, to bolster the legitimacy of his legislative proposal.

“Merely requiring clinics to post a notice informing women of the availability of free or low-cost reproductive health care services does not violate the First Amendment,” Berkley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky wrote regarding the Reproductive Fact Act in 2017. But those comments were made before the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the law several months later in NIFLA v. Becerra. Chemerinsky offers similar advice about Gabriel’s new bill, AB 624.

“I have reviewed the proposed legislation and think that it is clearly constitutional,” Chemerinsky said in Gabriel’s recent press release. “It simply requires that schools make easily available to students important contact numbers.”

Gabriel also turns to Professor Leah Litman, a constitutional scholar at UC Irvine School of Law, who offered a similar assessment. “AB 624 is plainly constitutional under existing doctrine,” said Professor Litman. “It is content neutral—it does not require anyone to convey a particular message. It merely requires schools to provide contact information for a variety of services that students may wish to learn more about or need.”

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Christian legal organization that argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of California’s pro-life pregnancy centers, believes Gabriel’s bill is more egregious than the Reproductive Fact Act. ADF Attorney Matt Sharp explains:

In NIFLA v. Becerra, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the California FACT Act which required pro-life pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion. As Justice Kennedy explained in his concurrence, the law compels individuals to “promote the State’s own preferred message advertising abortions” in contradiction of “their most deeply held beliefs.”

AB 624 goes even further, compelling students to be walking billboards for abortion providers and religious schools to print IDs that promote the State’s message on reproductive health.

Despite what law professors Erwin Chemerinsky and Leah Litman—who both incorrectly believed the FACT Act was constitutional—may argue, AB 624 violates the First Amendment rights of students and private schools and is unlikely to survive a legal challenge.

ADF Attorney Matt Sharp

Gabriel proposal has received national attention for its audacity, and because the bill gives one of his big supporters, Planned Parenthood, the opportunity to get some free advertising by letting them put their sexual and reproductive hotline on the back of millions of student ID cards.
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Call to Action

A hearing on AB 624 is planned in the Assembly Education Committee on April 10th.

Please make sure you call the members of this committee and tell them:
* AB 624 is unconstitutional because it compels private organizations to promote a government message.
* Planned Parenthood shouldn’t be given the opportunity to get free advertising on student ID cards to promote abortion and sexual immorality.

Assembly Education Committee member phone numbers:

  • Patrick O’Donnell (Chair) (D – Long Beach) (916) 319-2070
  • Kevin Kiley (Vice Chair) (R – Folsom) (916) 319-2006
  • Ash Kalra (D – San Jose) (916) 319-2027
  • Kevin McCarty (D – Sacramento) (916) 319-2007
  • Christy Smith (D – Santa Clarita) (916) 319-2038
  • Shirley N. Weber (D – San Diego) (916) 319-2079

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