SCOTUS, don't undermine for women the safety of a pro-life clinic

SCOTUS, don't undermine for women the safety of a pro-life clinic
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There are more than 2000 pro-life pregnancy resource centers across the United States that offer women compassionate and comprehensive alternatives to abortion. In the state of California alone, there are an estimated 200 such centers offering free services such as pregnancy testing, classes in prenatal development, basic skills, and parenting, assistance in enrolling in Medicaid and state-run supplemental food programs, cost-free ultrasounds, and, of course, free diapers and formula.

Soon, the Supreme Court will consider whether a California law forcing these centers to promote abortion violates the First Amendment. If the law is upheld, countless women across the country will be left without the care and life-enriching support they need and desire.      

My organization, the Catholic Association Foundation (TCA) has submitted an amicus brief on behalf of 13 women who have been direct and indirect beneficiaries of pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics in the state of California and across the United States. These women have courageously come forward to respond to the unsupported allegations that pregnancy centers mislead and deceive women by not advocating abortion. Contrary to California's claim, centers offered these women the chance to make an informed choice and improve the circumstances of their lives and the lives of their unborn children.

Their stories reveal how genuine concern, consolation and material assistance can empower women. Each woman's story is unique and the supports she received were tailored to her circumstances and desires. In not one instance did she feel pressured, manipulated, deceived, or misled. On the contrary, all resoundingly assert that center staff offered a loving and generous environment that helped to meet their material, emotional and spiritual needs. None were ever charged a fee.

For Angela, Cristina, Ebony, Laura and Shanelle, centers offered material and emotional supports tailored to their unique responsibilities as a single mother.

In Angela's case, she was encouraged to live drug-free and rebuild a relationship with her mother who now helps her care for Angela's son. Cristina continues to benefit from the parenting classes offered at her local center and received all that she needed to care for her newborn son. Ebony remarks on the genuine, warm concern she received at a center in contrast to the cold, harsh treatment she experienced when she visited an abortion clinic.

Informed of her options by center staff, Laura decided to have her daughter despite the overwhelming pressure to abort from her child's father. During her pregnancy, Laura reconnected with a loving and supportive man who has since become her spouse and adopted her daughter. And for Shanelle, a center confirmed by ultrasound the successful reversal of a chemical abortion and provided the emotional and material assistance she needed to continue her pregnancy and raise her daughter.     

Brooke, Melissa, Lindsey, and Nicole, along with their baby's fathers, were informed of their pregnancies and able to strengthen their families thanks to the supports they received at their local pregnancy center. Parenting for them was made easier thanks to free resources like ultrasounds to date and confirm pregnancy, classes and educational materials for both mother and father, and infant necessities such as diapers, wipes, baby clothes, and strollers.

Indispensable information, referrals and counsel from center staff were offered Shalane and her husband after their baby was diagnosed with a genetic defect that would take his life three hours after birth. And Brenda and her husband welcomed a son into their home after his birth mother concluded with center staff that adoption was the birth mother's preferred option.

In addition to the varied supports and counsel given pregnant women, pregnancy centers also provide post-abortion counsel to countless numbers of women. For Judith and Stephanie, such counsel has helped them recover from the trauma and distress they experienced from abortions. Both women are now active volunteers in their communities.             

Pregnancy is tough. A pregnancy without love and support can seem impossible. Pro-life pregnancy centers provide what many women need and want to bring their children into the world.  The stories of these 13 women are beautiful examples of how centers operate and the positive impact they have on the women who walk through their doors.

The Supreme Court has the chance to protect pregnancy centers from unconstitutional laws like California’s FACT Act so that women don't lose out on such sources of compassionate assistance.

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation, which submitted an amicus brief in support of the petitioner.