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What if March for Life participants were forced to advertise for Planned Parenthood?

Greg Nash

On Jan. 19, tens of thousands of people will congregate in Washington, D.C. for the 45th annual March for Life. Forty-four times previously, countless individuals have braved the cold, the crowds, and the counter-protestors. They’ve driven in, flown in, bussed in or — more recently — virtually tuned in, all to publicly proclaim a message that once went without saying: the life of every child matters.

For pro-life supporters, what matters most is not the number of individuals that turn out to march each year (typically estimated to be in the tens of thousands), but rather the impact that such efforts have on the number of abortions. And in that number, they find reason to celebrate. In 2013, the number of abortions fell below one million for the first time in nearly four decades, and it continues to drop.

There is a lack of consensus on the reason for the decline. Some tout the impact of the “pro-life generation” while others point to “better access to contraception” or bemoan abortion regulations in “highly restrictive states.” Certainly, one factor is the continued rise of pro-life pregnancy centers, which provide assistance and resources to women facing unplanned pregnancies. The Guttmacher Institute has found that “women’s primary reasons for making the decision to have an abortion often have to do with managing an array of responsibilities using only limited resources.”

{mosads}Of course, fewer abortions means less revenue for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, which has performed more than seven million abortions, including 321,384 abortions during the 2016-17 fiscal year alone. (The figure appears on page 31 of their latest annual report.) For an entity that reportedly imposes “abortion quotas” on its clinics, the decline is surely distressing. Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates have been unwilling to accept the nationwide shift toward choosing life.


In the 2015-16 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood spent more than $26 million to build its “advocacy capacity” and “refresh our brand,” followed by an additional $76 million in 2016-17 for “movement building.” Planned Parenthood and its cohorts also have opposed basic safe health standards at abortion facilities and cheered regulations that require churches to provide coverage for elective abortions.

And in an almost-comical-were-it-not-so-maniacal display of chutzpah, the notoriously pro-abortion California legislature passed the poorly named “Reproductive FACT Act,” a law which actually requires pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for the abortion industry. That’s not a typo.

The law, which took effect in January 2016, represents the ultimate attempt to un-level the playing field by specifically targeting the pregnancy centers, forcing them to become mouthpieces for the abortion lobby. It requires private, pro-life centers to post an advertisement that advises women on how they can obtain an abortion, and provides a phone number to call. Callers are referred to Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities.

Make no mistake, the California law — and the activists behind it — aren’t seeking to win a public debate about abortion; they are seeking to end the debate. And they are seeking to end the debate not only by silencing the other side, but also by controlling the very messages the other side expresses.

Pro-life pregnancy centers exist to offer practical medical and non-medical care that will support a woman’s choice to give birth. The pro-abortion lobby — with an assist from California lawmakers — seeks to compel pro-life pregnancy centers to express a message that undermines and contradicts their very purpose for existing. Accordingly, this law isn’t truly about “Reproductive FACTs” but about free speech.

In the coming months, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, and decide whether the law violates the First Amendment. The answer should be clear. Forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to shill for the abortion industry is like forcing the American Lung Association to promote cigarettes and where to buy them. It’s like forcing the DNC to promote rallies for Republican candidates. The absurdity of the analogies reflects the reality and affirms the core truth at the center of the case: Pro-life pregnancy centers should not be forced to contradict their core message.

If you participate in the March for Life, or follow it online, imagine forcing this year’s participants to carry signs in support of Planned Parenthood.

It’s clear that abortion advocates are determined to advance abortion no matter what, even if it requires sacrificing the First Amendment. And when the Supreme Court hears NIFLA, the justices won’t be asked to overturn Roe v. Wade, but they will be asked to give free speech life.

James Gottry is legal counsel for the nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates.

Tags Abortion Abortion in the United States James Gottry March for Life Planned Parenthood Reproductive rights Roe v. Wade

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