The state of Hawaii has adopted a policy that essentially targets faith-based pregnancy centers. It says they must promote family planning services that the centers do not offer.
So-called limited service pregnancy centers — meaning clinics that do not perform abortions — must display written notices informing clients about contraceptive options and instructions on accessing a government website. While the law does not specifically mention abortion, it does require pregnancy centers to provide information about pregnancy-related services offered in the state.
"It should concern all of us that a state can force pro-life pregnancy centers to advocate for procedures that undermine their very reason for existing," Sarah Kramer, a digital content specialist at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), wrote in a blog post. ADF is a conservative Christian nonprofit headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Lawyers at ADF filed a lawsuit this week on behalf of a Christian pregnancy center operated by Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor. ADF also represents a network of pregnancy care centers with five Hawaii affiliates.
"Americans should always have the freedom to think and speak without fear of unjust government punishment," ADF legal counsel Elissa Graves said in a press release July 12.
Meanwhile, "Supporters of the bill say it is intended to protect women by providing them fair and complete information on pregnancy options," Hawaii News Now reported.
The Hawaii state legislature approved Senate Bill 501 on May 4 — and the legislation became law July 12 after gubernatorial inaction.
"Hawaii has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, including, but not limited to, all FDA-approved methods of contraception and pregnancy-related services for eligible women," reads the notice centers are required to post.
In addition, centers must inform clients: "To apply online for medical insurance coverage that will cover the full range of family planning and prenatal services, go to mybenefits.hawaii.gov. Only ultrasounds performed by qualified health care professionals and read by licensed clinicians should be considered medically accurate."
The religious liberty law firm assisting the Hawaii clinics has also filed suits against similar laws in California and Illinois.
In California, the law requires "a licensed covered facility ... to disseminate a notice to all clients … that California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, prenatal care, and abortion, for eligible women."
In 2016, pro-abortion advocates with the group NARAL pushed to require two pro-life pregnancy centers in California to include information on abortion in their promotional material.
"The reproductive health of California women shouldn't be subject to the whims of extremist anti-choice organizations and their rabid lawyers," Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, said in March 2016.
Christian crisis pregnancy centers in the Chicago area are fighting a similar battle.
"For years, the abortion lobby has preyed on women and girls to generate profits," said ADF senior counsel Kevin Theriot.